Judge Rules Illinois Basketball Star Be Immediately Reinstated Amid Rape Charges

May 3, 2024

By T J O’Connor, Troy University & Michael S. Carroll, PhD


On September 8, 2023, Terrence Shannon Jr., a prominent member of the University of Illinois basketball team, and his roommates, teammate Justin Harmon, and graduate assistant Dyshon Hobson traveled to Lawrence, Kansas to attend a football game between the University of Illinois and Kansas University. Graduate assistant Hobson drove the group to Lawrence at the direction of other basketball assistant coaches. After attending the game, Shannon and his two roommates went out to the Jayhawk Cafe in Lawrence to socialize with friends and some of the University of Kansas basketball players. Shannon and his roommates remained at the bar throughout the evening until returning to Champaign, Illinois at about 4:30 in the morning. While at the Jayhawk Cafe, Shannon is alleged to have assaulted a female by grabbing her buttocks and digitally penetrating her vagina without her consent. The alleged incident occurred in a crowded space with witnesses as well as video surveillance in place. Shannon claims there are no witnesses to the alleged incident, no video showing him and the complainant together, nor any physical evidence tying him to the alleged incident. No interviews by police were conducted until criminal charges were filed. The Lawrence Police Department (LPD) stated that the victim’s phone was used to conduct searches of the Kansas football and basketball teams as well as the Illinois football and basketball teams before identifying Shannon. The case in question is not a criminal case to find whether Shannon is guilty or innocent of the allegations levied against him, but rather findings of whether the University of Illinois can continue to suspend him from basketball team activities, including practices and games, while he faces such charges.

In 2017-18, the University of Illinois introduced the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA). The purpose of the DIA is to interpret and enforce the Student Athlete handbook, which includes the student athlete code of conduct as well as the disciplinary process. In creating this department, the athletic department and university sought to remove the decision-making process, investigation process, and disciplinary responsibilities from coaches and other athletic department personnel. The DIA has procedures in place to respond to any violations of the student code of conduct presented to them. It is then up to the DIA to decide in cases of accusations or information involving student misconduct whether the accused student athlete should be allowed to participate in athletic activities while waiting for resolution of charges or allegations. In late September of 2023, the Illinois DIA received information from the LPD that Shannon was involved in an incident while visiting Lawrence, Kansas. The preliminary information received was very vague and did not specifically communicate that Shannon was the subject of an investigation.

Illinois Athletics Director Josh Whitmen, who oversees the DIA, learned later of a formal investigation conducted by the LPD. After learning of this incident, Whitmen consulted with other university officials at Illinois, including the Chancellor, the Title IX office, and the Office of University Counsel throughout the fall of 2023. Eventually, they unanimously agreed that the information available at that time did not warrant removing Shannon from athletic activities. However, on December 27, 2023, the DIA received an arrest warrant from LPD for Shannon. At this point, Whitmen made the decision to suspend Shannon from all Illinois basketball activities, including practices and games. Shannon was still able to receive access to training, meals, academic assistance, and medical treatment, among other things. Then, on December 28, 2023, Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director/Chief Integrity Officer Ryan Squire gave written notice to Shannon that he would be suspended from all organized team activities. The DIA panel met on the afternoon of January 3, 2024 and upheld their decision that Shannon should be withheld from organized team activities until resolution of the legal charges against him. After this meeting, Squire again provided Shannon with written notice of the DIA decision.


Shortly thereafter, on January 8, 2024, Shannon filed a state court complaint for injunctive relief and a motion for emergency injunctive relief. Shannon filed his verified motion for a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and/or expedited discovery. The case contains seven counts against the University of Illinois and its board of trustees.

  • Count I: seeks injunctive and declaratory relief against the University of Illinois on the basis that Title IX is applicable.
  • Count II: seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against Illinois under Plaintiff’s scholarship contract.
  • Count III: is pled alternatively and seeks injunctive relief based on an implied contract with Illinois under the DIA Policy and breach due to the failure to apply the presumption of innocence and other due process safeguards.
  • Count IV: is pled alternatively against Illinois and seeks declaratory and injunctive relief based on the unconscionability of the DIA Policy.
  • Count V: is pled alternatively against Illinois and is a declaratory and injunctive relief claim seeking a determination of which standards actually govern the suspension process, given the inconsistent and vague application of different standards.
  • Count VI: pled alternatively, is a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Illinois President Timothy Killeen for deprivation of Plaintiff’s protected property interests without procedural due process.
  • Count VII: is a declaratory and injunctive relief claim against Illinois alleging it waived its rights to apply the DIA or OSCR Policies by not acting for three months.

To obtain preliminary injunctive relief, a plaintiff must show that (a) his underlying case has some likelihood of success on the merits, (b) no adequate remedy at law exists, and (c) he will suffer irreparable harm without the injunction. If those three factors are shown, the court then must balance the harm to each party and to the public interest from granting or denying the injunction. The court in this case examined Count I with respect to Title IX and Count VI’s 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Illinois President Timothy Killeen for deprivation of Plaintiff’s protected property interests without procedural due process.

Likelihood of Success

Title IX

Defendant University of Illinois receives federal financial assistance, thus it is required to comply with Title IX policy. In a general sense, Title IX ensures that no person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. A Title IX sex discrimination claim must show (a) proof that the educational institution receives federal funding, (b) the plaintiff was excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of an education program, and (c) the educational institution in question discriminated against the plaintiff based on sex. Shannon argued that this has some likelihood of success based on the fact that he can show the alleged incident took place during an educational program or activity, which holds Illinois responsible. The plaintiff argues that Illinois should have applied Title IX in this case because the trip was an activity that was school sponsored since he traveled with an assistant coach from the school, other assistant coaches requested that the assistant coach travel with Shannon, and the coaches frequently checked in on his whereabouts. However, the courts viewed the trip differently in that it was initiated by Shannon, he was accompanied by his roommates, and the incident occurred in Lawrence, Kansas at the Jayhawk cafe, none of which are under any sort of University of Illinois jurisdiction or control. Furthermore, the fact that coaches requested someone travel with Shannon is not enough to show that this was a university-sponsored, educational trip. As such, the opinion of the court was that Plaintiff has not established the requisite likelihood of success of his claim on the merits of Title IX.

Protected Property Interest

The case in question is unique in that Shannon was a projected NBA lottery pick in the 2024 NBA draft, which would position him to make millions of dollars upon being selected. The Supreme Court in Board of Regents v. Roth (1972) explained that college education is not property in the sense of the word, and in so doing determined neither is sport. However, as stated above, in this case Plaintiff’s ability to continue to participate in this basketball season is vital to the development of his career and future earning potential as a professional athlete. The school preventing him from doing so could cost him millions of dollars. Courts have found a property interest when there is a matter of contract between the student and the university. In this case Shannon can argue that the contract he has with the University of Illinois entitles him to his right to play, which was taken away from him. It is the opinion of the court that there is a likelihood of success on this issue.

Liberty Interest

As stated by the Supreme Court, the meaning of liberty in this context means the liberty to follow a trade profession or other calling. To prove the University of Illinois is depriving him of his liberty interests, Shannon must show that the University is inflicting reputational damage by altering a legal status that deprives Plaintiff of a right he previously held. By suspending him from the basketball team, the University is altering Shannon’s legal status. Therefore, Shannon’s occupational liberty interest has been impacted. By remaining suspended he will not be able to finish the season with his team or play in the Big Ten and NCAA basketball tournaments against top competition, which hurts his ability to benefit from NIL compensation as well as future earnings from the prospect of a professional career in the sport. As a result, the court determined Plaintiff has a likelihood of success on the merits based on the deprivation of his liberty interest.

Procedural Fairness

If the University of Illinois is going to withhold a student athlete from participation, the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA) specifically requires that it do so in compliance with and in consideration of all applicable university, state, and federal regulations. One of those university applicable policies is the Office of Student Conflict Resolution (OSCR) policy, which states that any student accused of sexual misconduct has a right to notice of the proceedings, participation in the administrative hearings, an investigative process, and an ability to review and respond to the evidence. While Shannon was given written notice by the University of Illinois of his suspension, he was not given the benefits of the OSCR policy with the DIA before his interim suspension. He was given written notice, but he was not made aware of many aspects of the accusation, nor was he provided with an opportunity to review the evidence against him. There was no reviewing of evidence by the OSCR panel, and Shannon was not allowed to give his verbal defense, in violation of the policy. The OSCR panel failed to provide Shannon the fair opportunities of defense as written in the policy. In determining this, the court again found there is a likelihood that Plaintiff could win the injunction on the merits.

Inadequate Legal Remedies

In this case, time was of the essence. By suspending Shannon in the interim, the University of Illinois was preventing him from playing while the remainder of the season continued. So, while the suspension was interim, it would have likely lasted for the remainder of the year since the legal proceedings generally takes significant time to move through the courts. Shannon has plans to declare for the 2024 NBA draft, so his season and career at Illinois would effectively be over should his suspension continue. The current suspension has already done irreparable damage to the plaintiff in both reputation and projected future earnings, hurting Shannon’s NBA draft stock. The court recognized that furthering his suspension would prevent Shannon from having a remedy at law if the charges were to be dismissed or he is acquitted of the charges once the college basketball season and or NBA draft is completed. By recognizing this, the court determined Defendant had shown inadequate legal remedies exist and irreparable harm has occurred to provide reason for an injunction.

Irreparable Harm

When determining irreparable harm, the court will look at both sides. In this case, the court must balance whether the irreparable harm that exists for Plaintiff is greater than that of the University or defendant. The court felt strongly that there was plenty of irreparable harm in place for Plaintiff in the form of lost NIL money, possible loss of an NBA career, ability to support his family and future earnings, as well as reputation and that this harm is hard to quantify. It is also hard to put a quantitative number on what losing the rest of one’s college career does. Were the University to allow Shannon to play, they also run the risk of suffering harm. There is a chance that Shannon, if reinstated could hurt someone else, be ultimately tried and found guilty, and have the University be criticized for not doing more. All of this, while having to be scrutinized in the court of public opinion, if they allow him to play while awaiting the outcome of his criminal case. The court felt that since the University was still allowing Shannon to be on campus, attend classes, and receive treatment as well as many other school and athletic privileges, it appears the University did not see him as a threat to other students or to the community at large. Therefore, the court felt that the irreparable harm to Plaintiff based on the interim suspension would be greater than the harm to the University if Plaintiff were allowed to continue to participate.


The court was able to show the failure to meet the three factors for a preliminary injunction through the Title IX claims, stating that Plaintiff’s claims failed to live up to the standards of a Title IX complaint. However, using Count VI of Plaintiff’s argument, the court was able to show that all three factors were met in order to obtain a preliminary injunction on behalf of Shannon. As such, the court granted temporary injunction in favor of Shannon with respect to the University of Illinois’s suspension of him, allowing him to be immediately eligible to return to basketball competition and all other basketball and educational related activities.

During his suspension, Shannon missed six games, with the Illinois basketball team going 4-2 in his absence. A preliminary hearing for the criminal rape case against Shannon has been set for May 10, 2024.


Shannon v. The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, 24-cv-2010 (C.D. Ill. Jan. 19, 2024). Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/gov.uscourts.ilcd.91597

Thomas J. “TJ” O’Connor is a doctoral student at the Troy University in Sport Management. This is his first published article pertaining to the legal aspects of sport.

Michael S. Carroll is a Full Professor of Sport Management at Troy University specializing in research related to sport law and risk management in sport and recreation. He also serves as Online Program Coordinator for Troy University and works closely with students in the TROY doctoral program.

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