A Title IX investigation at Florida has officially cleared Gators receiver Antonio Callaway of responsibility for an alleged sexual assault against another student, The Tampa Bay Times reported Friday.
Callaway’s accuser boycotted the school’s hearing on the matter last week, because the lawyer the university appointed as the third-party officer responsible for deciding the hearing is a Gators football booster.
ESPN previously detailed the connections to Florida’s athletic department of the hearing officer, Jake Schickel, who’s also a former assistant state attorney and chief assistant attorney for Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit:
Schickel, 68, is a Scholarship Club donor to Florida Football Boosters, which requires annual contributions of $4,800 to $8,599, according to a 2014-15 Year In Review program published by the UF athletics department. According to the documents, Schickel is also a 3-Point Club donor to Florida basketball, which requires annual contributions of $2,000 to $4,999.
A female student at Florida accused Callaway and former Gators quarterback Treon Harris of sexually assaulting her last December. Harris has since opted to transfer, while both Harris and Callaway were suspended earlier this year for a violation of the school’s code of student conduct.
The accuser’s lawyer called it "beyond unacceptable" that the university had appointed a football-connected booster as the hearing officer and said he faced conflicts of interest, ESPN reported. Schickel himself hasn’t commented publicly.
Florida has come under fire for appointing an officer with connections to the football program to oversee the hearing. The university, in a statement last week, didn’t seem worried about the potential for bias.
The University of Florida is prohibited to comment on the existence or substance of student disciplinary matters under state and federal law.
However, I can tell you that our student conduct process may be handled by a hearing officer, who could be a university employee or an outside professional, or by a committee of faculty and students.
Any hearing officer and all committee members are trained and vetted for their impartiality. A hearing officer or committee member would not be disqualified or lack objectivity simply because he or she had been a student athlete decades earlier or purchases athletic tickets as more than 90,000 people do each year.
Callaway was Florida’s leading receiver as a freshman last season. It already looked like he’d be eligible to play this year, and this certainly won’t change that.