Oklahoma LB Shannon returns after 1-year suspension
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma linebacker Frank Shannon said he planned to return to the Sooners after a one-year suspension following a Title IX sexual misconduct investigation, although he wondered at times if it would happen.
Oklahoma media relations personnel indicated Tuesday that Shannon would only answer ''football questions.'' Shannon said he owed it to his teammates and linebackers coach Tim Kush to return.
''Coach Kish, we always kept in touch with each other throughout the whole thing,'' Shannon said. ''He supported me a lot. When I was at home, the only thing I focused on was coming back to school.''
Shannon led the Sooners in tackles in 2013, a season that ended with a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. In April 2014, an Oklahoma student accused Shannon of sexual assault. The Cleveland County District Attorney's office declined to file charges, but the university conducted an investigation and suspended Shannon.
Shannon went to court and a Cleveland Country District Court judge issued a temporary restraining order against the university. But the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled last September that the university could enforce Shannon's suspension.
Shannon, who has maintained his innocence, practiced with the Sooners while the court case was pending but didn't play in any games. He said he attended classes at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, not far from his Dallas home, and worked out on his own.
''I couldn't work out with any teams,'' Shannon said. ''I ran. I lifted. I did a lot of workouts. That's all I did, work out and go to school.''
Oklahoma President David Boren - who played a leading role in pursuing the enforcement of Shannon's suspension - addressed the issue with the Tulsa World. Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, also suspended one year by the university, accepted a year of probation after being charged with punching a woman and breaking her jaw at a restaurant in July 2014.
''To me, it's over,'' Boren told the newspaper. ''It's just like being a parent. Sometimes you have to punish but then you still care about people. Then you give them every advantage to work their way back into the fold. They've done that.''
At 6-foot-1 and 238 pounds, Shannon is noticeably bigger than he was in 2013. He returns to a squad that is deep at linebacker, with four other players on the roster - including 2014 All-America third-team selection Erik Striker - who have starting experience. Shannon knows a starting job is not guaranteed.
''I figured it was going to take some work,'' he said. ''I couldn't come back and just jump right in. I missed a lot of playing time and stuff. I knew I was going to have to come back and work hard and still show the coaches I could play.
''Even though I was running, I wasn't as fit like I was when I was here. Through the whole summer, I worked hard and got back in shape and made a tremendous turnaround.''
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has been impressed with Shannon so far in preseason practices.
''He looks really good,'' Stoops said. ''Frank's really, really moving well. He's a guy that's played a lot of football and a very experienced player that you can tell makes a difference in there, not only playing, but getting calls, making sure everyone else is on the same page as well.''