ORLANDO, Fla. - Attendance at the Florida Classic was the worst in the history of the event's run in Orlando, bringing in about only half of last year's crowds with 32,317 fans.
Vendors and attendees attributed the steep decline to the unmistakably absent Marching 100, the notorious band for Florida A&M University. The Marching 100 is on suspension after its drum major Robert Champion was killed in a suspected hazing event this same weekend last year.
Florida Classic organizers were forced to rope off the top bowl at the Citrus Bowl as a result of dismal ticket sales, automatically forgoing almost 18,000 seats.
Despite fewer fans, the battle continued on the football field as the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats overcame the FAMU Rattlers, winning 21-16.
Many vendors said they noticed the drop off in attendance immediately.
"I do think it's a direct relationship to the fact...the band isn't here," said John Fuller. "I think a lot of patrons come just to hear the band and hang out and that crowd is not here this year."
Fuller said he's hopeful once the Marching 100 is reinstated, the tradition will continue with just as much gusto and fan volume as once before.
"The [suspension] is understood and you have to go through this downtime, but I think it'll be back when the band does get reinstated," said Fuller.
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