NORMAN — The University of Oklahoma’s efforts to suspend starting linebacker and leading tackler Frank Shannon for one year reached the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday, according to a petition obtained by The Oklahoman.
The university is asking the court to prohibit a Cleveland County district judge from enforcing an order allowing Shannon to remain enrolled as a student and participate in OU football activities.
OU suspended Shannon on June 18 after a Title IX investigation into an alleged sexual assault. Shannon went to district court June 24 and received a stay, allowing him to remain enrolled as a student and to continue working out with the team.
“The University is unable to enforce its process at this time,” OU President David Boren said of Shannon’s suspension in a statement released Monday afternoon.
“The University has and is taking every legal step possible to move this process forward.”
Shannon was accused of sexually assaulting a female student at his off-campus apartment in January. Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn declined to prosecute the case in criminal court. Under federal law, the university is required to conduct its own independent Title IX investigation.
OU’s process for investigating allegations of sexual misconduct involves a Title IX inquiry, followed by a hearing panel composed of faculty and staff and a final appeal to the chief student affairs officer.
The university found Shannon guilty of violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy through all three of those steps, and issued the one-year suspension on June 18.
The petition filed to the state Supreme Court reveals that Shannon appealed the university’s suspension to Cleveland County District Judge Tracy Schumacher, who issued a temporary emergency order June 25 continuing the proceeding until June 30, and then issued a summary order continuing the stay, allowing Shannon to continue his enrollment and participation in football workouts.
Shannon was seen in the OU athletics department’s video July 1, when it unveiled the program’s new alternate uniforms.
On Aug. 2, Shannon sat with other Oklahoma linebackers and signed autographs for children ages 14 and under during Meet the Sooners Day.
Shannon wasn’t present during a portion of practice open to reporters last Tuesday morning. Head coach Bob Stoops, through a spokesman, said Shannon had “the flu.”
Shannon returned to practice two days later, though, and has continued working out with the team since.
According to the Supreme Court petition, the district court offered an expedited hearing that was scheduled for Monday but was “stricken” due to “Shannon’s counsel’s unavailability.”
That hearing was postponed until Aug. 21 — nine days before Oklahoma opens its 2014 football season against Louisiana Tech.
OU is asking the state’s high court to intervene, saying that because fall semester classes begin next Monday, time is of the essence.
The university cited three reasons that the district judge shouldn’t be able to stop Shannon’s suspension.
The first is that Shannon’s appeal is based on Oklahoma’s Administrative Procedures Act, which was amended by the state legislature 13 days before his suspension to exclude OU and all public universities from its purview.
The second is that the district court’s stay “was an unconstitutional invasion of the University’s powers” to self-govern, and the third is that Shannon wasn’t expelled; he was suspended, meaning it doesn’t fall under the district court’s purview.
The petition goes on to state that “despite the express directive of the Suspension Order,” the athletics department has been required to publish programs and other materials identifying Shannon as a football player for the upcoming season, and provide him a scholarship “to the exclusion of other eligible students.”
Shannon, a Dallas native, was Oklahoma’s leading tackler on last year’s Sugar Bowl championship team.
Throughout his career, the junior has made 25 appearances and started 15 games, recording 132 tackles, four sacks, 10.5 tackles-for-loss and one interception.