Should new Memphis Tiger Michael Dixon be allowed to play next season?
Dez Wells was expelled from Xavier in August of last year, right before the start of what would have been his sophomore year, because he was accused of sexual assault by a fellow student. He was never charged with a crime.
Michael Dixon was initially suspended and then kicked off the Missouri team in November of last year after he was accused of sexual assault. He wasn’t allowed to take online coursework through the school last semester. He was never charged with a crime.
The NCAA’s clearly spells out the penalties in a situation like this in Rule 184.108.40.206: “A student who transfers to any NCAA institution from a collegiate institution while the student is disqualified or suspended from the previous institution for disciplinary reasons (as opposed to academic reasons) must complete one calendar year of residence at the certifying institution.”
Wells, however, was given a waiver by the NCAA to play immediately at Maryland. He didn’t have to do a year in residence. He didn’t have to redshirt a season. He was given the waiver on November 7th and suited up with the Terrapins on November 9th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, playing Kentucky on college hoops’ opening night.
So it only makes sense that Dixon gets the same waiver, which would clear him to play immediately at Memphis, as well, right?
He was never charged. He was never even questioned by the police. He’s already say out an entire season. And he doesn’t have another option. The NCAA has a rule that a player must use their four seasons of eligibility in five years, and Dixon played three seasons at Missouri before sitting out last year. His college career, his senior season, would be taken away because of something that he was accused of but never charged with.
And this is why, at the time, so many discussed the dangerous precedent that was being set by this ruling.
Because there are two very important differences in these two cases.
For starters, there wasn’t one allegation against Dixon. There were two. The first was all the way back in January of 2010, and the accuser decided against pressing charges in that case. The second came right before his suspension was announced at the end of last summer. Prosecutors determined that there was a lack of sufficient evidence to pursue that case.
Being accused of sexual assault twice doesn’t necessarily mean that Dixon committed sexual assault in either instance, but it is concerning. How many people do you know that have been falsely accused of sexual assault once, let alone twice?
The other issue is that Wells had just about everyone come to his defense publicly and rip Xavier for taking unnecessary action. In fact, the prosecutor in Wells’ case went on the radio and shredded Xavier for the way they handled the situation, calling it “fundamentally unfair” and “seriously flawed”. Xavier had been dealing with issues regarding their handling of sexual assault cases on campus, and it’s not difficult to make the assumption that the school made an example out of Wells.
At least, that’s how the NCAA viewed it.Now consider this, from Jason King’s piece on Dixon’s commitment to Missouri:
Dixon hasn’t received that type of verbal backing from anyone in Missouri. In fact, a source close to Dixon said the university wouldn’t even allow him to take online coursework during the spring semester. And numerous head coaches told ESPN.com that Missouri athletic director Mike Alden was usually critical of Dixon when prospective schools called seeking permission to talk to the 6-foot-1 guard.
"[Alden] shredded him to my AD -- just absolutely shredded him,” one Division I head coach told ESPN.com last month.
The issue with punishing sexual assault accusations is that the only people that truly know the circumstances are the people that were in the room. The accuser and the accused. Wells and Dixon may both be guilty of sexual assault, or they both may be victims of jealous ex-girlfriends or scorned one-night stands. We will never truly know.
And that’s the problem for the NCAA here.
They determined Wells to be innocent enough that they allowed him to play immediately without a year in residency.
What will the outcome be now that the NCAA is putting Mike Dixon on trial?
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.