On college football's opening weekend, the Florida A&M University Rattlers faced Mississippi Valley State, and for the first time in nearly two years, their famed marching band was on the field to kick off the season.
It's been 21 months since FAMU fans have seen the Marching 100 band perform publicly; the organization was suspended after an investigation into the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion in 2011.
Before Champion's death, the band had been one of the best and biggest university bands, but after the controversy surrounding the investigation, the band has fewer members and more rigorous guidelines for participation, according to Sylvester Young, FAMU director of marching and pep bands.
Young said the band's worst days are behind it as it returned to the field on Sunday.
"We have made a thorough assessment of the students who have auditioned for the band and firmly believe that we are ready to return and positively represent Florida A&M University and its proud students, faculty, alumni and community. We embark on this season reflective of the circumstances that led to the band's suspension and are optimistic that this is a new day for the band and the university," Young said in a statement released this week.
The university stressed in the statement that positive steps have been taken since Champion's death.
It created an anti-hazing plan that includes a revised student code of conduct, a new anti-hazing website, scheduled campus training and beefed-up procedures for reporting and investigating hazing allegations.
Champion, 26, was beaten on a bus after a November 2011 football game in Orlando as part of a band hazing ritual. He died "within an hour" of the beating, medical examiners reported.
The Marching 100 was suspended shortly after his death.
Both the university's president and band director resigned as a result of the investigation into Champion's death.