While acknowledging Oklahoma football coaches have been put in a difficult position throughout the ongoing Frank Shannon saga, the junior linebacker’s attorney scathingly criticized university officials, Bob Stoops and his staff during a news conference at her Oklahoma City office Friday afternoon.
“They teach our kids to fight hard on the field, never give up … and all of a sudden when it gets hot, they're gone,” said civil rights lawyer Aletia Timmons, who is representing Shannon in his court battle with the University of Oklahoma.
“I have a problem with that. You can't teach what you don't model.”
Timmons said Shannon will “stand on the sideline in silent protest” during the Sooners’ 2014 season opener, set for 6 p.m. Saturday on Owen Field.
Shannon was issued a one-year suspension from school and football activities June 18 after he was found guilty of violating the university’s Title IX sexual misconduct policy. A female OU student alleged that Shannon sexually assaulted her at his off-campus apartment in late January.
Although criminal charges were never filed in the case, the university is obligated by federal law to conduct its own independent investigation.
Six days after being suspended, Shannon went to Cleveland County District Court and received a stay, allowing him to remain enrolled as a student and continue working out with the team.
The university petitioned the Oklahoma Supreme Court earlier this month to remove the stay, calling the district court's action "an unconstitutional invasion of the University's powers" to self-govern. They also argued Shannon shouldn’t be able to contest his suspension in court because he wasn't expelled. Oklahoma's Administrative Procedures Act excludes OU and all public universities from its purview except in the case of expulsion.
Because the case is unsettled in court and the district judge’s stay remains in effect, Shannon is allowed to attend classes and participate fully in football activities. Timmons said that until the university filed its petition to the state Supreme Court, Shannon — OU’s leading tackler on last year’s Sugar Bowl champion squad — was practicing with the first-team defense.
The past couple weeks, Shannon’s practice time has been severely limited, Timmons said, and when OU released its first depth chart Monday, Shannon wasn’t on it.
"That situation is still unresolved and therefore I've got to proceed with players I know are going to be available to me through the rest of the year," Stoops said Monday. "At this point, the depth chart is what it is."
Timmons said OU “failed” Shannon and is “making him a scapegoat” in its attempt to overzealously enforce the federal government’s Title IX sexual misconduct mandate.
She alleged that many universities — OU included — are “going so far overboard because they’re worried about the fact that the Title IX office is gonna come down and investigate and make a determination they haven't gone as far as they're supposed to, and they'll lose funding.”
Timmons added that the alleged victim in this case was upset because Shannon “refused to have intercourse” with her.
Soon after Shannon contacted Timmons' office earlier this year, she had a former law enforcement officer administer a polygraph test, which she said Shannon passed “with one of the highest scores that law enforcement officer had ever seen.”
Timmons said she discussed with Shannon his transfer options, but that he quickly shot her down, saying he wanted to fight to restore his reputation.
“He said, 'I'm not gonna run. I'm not gonna be branded a rapist. I'm gonna stay and fight,'” Timmons recalled. “And so he's doing that at great personal and emotional expense.”
Asked if she’s worried that his relationships at OU have been damaged beyond repair — regardless of this case’s outcome in court — Timmons responded, “Well, let me just say this, if he had a relationship with the folks that are putting him through this process that was worth a flip, then we wouldn't be sitting here. We can't worry about his relationship with them now.”