NORMAN — Frank Shannon remains an active member of the Oklahoma football team and enrolled as a student at the university, but the investigation into sexual assault allegations against the junior linebacker is still ongoing.
We know this because when OU denied an Open Records request for the final outcome of any disciplinary action against Shannon, the reason given by open records officer Michael Purcell was that “there has not been a final determination of a disciplinary action.”
“The University followed a very stringent process with both sides, and under the Administrative Procedure Act both sides have an ability to appeal any decision reached by the University to a district court,” Purcell said. “The University takes very seriously its obligation in cases like this. Under federal law, since this matter is still pending, the University cannot release further information.”
Shannon appears in the team’s official media guide and even signed autographs during Meet the Sooners Day last weekend, and had been practicing. He didn’t participate in either of Oklahoma’s Tuesday practices, though, with coach Bob Stoops citing “the flu” as the reason for his absence.
Everyone involved continues to publicly approach the Shannon situation with extreme caution. Stoops will barely talk about it. Just before an interview with OU linebackers coach Tim Kish at a recent media golf event, an OU sports information director instructed a reporter to not ask about Shannon, then stood nearby, clearly to make sure the subject wasn’t broached.
Shannon’s attorney, Aletia Timmons, declined to comment when contacted last month except to say Shannon was still with the team. She wouldn’t say whether or not Shannon would play at OU in the fall.
The most interesting public comment regarding Shannon was Purcell’s, especially the part about both sides’ right to “appeal any decision reached by the University to a district court.”
All signs point to that being exactly the stage this case has reached.
The University of Oklahoma’s Title IX office outlines the process for investigating and ruling on sexual misconduct charges on its website.
When a complaint is received, the sexual misconduct office begins an investigation, which is completely independent of any criminal proceedings. In Shannon’s case, Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn declined to file charges. Under federal law, though, a university is still obligated to conduct its own investigation.
After all parties are interviewed, if it is determined that a violation of OU’s Sexual Misconduct, Discrimination and Harassment Policy has occurred, the student conduct office meets with the accused student to discuss sanctions.
The accused person can appeal the investigation’s findings to a five-member disciplinary panel. One of those panel members is chosen as the chair, who reviews the evidence and the original investigation report during a “prehearing” and determines whether or not a hearing is warranted.
If the chair decides a hearing is needed — based on either insufficient evidence to support the original finding or additional evidence that wasn’t available before that might have changed it — a hearing must be scheduled for within 30 days of that decision.
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