By Bill Cotterell
TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - Florida A&M University's famed "Marching 100" band, suspended from performances for nearly two years after the beating death of a drum major in a hazing ritual, will return next month in the school's opening football game, officials said on Thursday.
"This is a new beginning," said Sylvester Young, director of marching and pep bands at the historically black college known as FAMU.
The band is scheduled to perform at the MEAC-SWAC Challenge game on September 1 when FAMU plays Mississippi Valley State.
The band was suspended after the death of Robert Champion, 26, who was severely beaten in an initiation tradition known as "Crossing Bus C" after a school football game on November 20, 201l.
He collapsed after being punched and kicked by band members in a darkened bus at a hotel parking lot in Orlando.
Former FAMU President James Ammons suspended the band indefinitely and former music director Julian White was ousted in the ensuing investigation, which resulted in criminal charges against some former band members. Hazing is illegal in Florida.
Current interim President Larry Robinson lifted the suspension in June, allowing students to enroll in band training and participate in tryouts and rehearsals, but officials held off deciding when the band would return public performances.
Robinson decreased the band's membership to 126 from more than 400, and the university hired a special assistant to help reduce violent behavior and held mandatory student training on hazing.
Students may only participate in the band for four years, they must have a 2.0 cumulative grade average and must have earned 24 credit hours in the past year.
(Editing by Kevin Gray, Toni Reinhold)