Former Missouri Tiger standout basketball player Michael Dixon signed with the Memphis Tigers on June 6.
Dixon, who was kicked off the Missouri team in November after a female student accused him of sexual assault, needs to be granted a waiver from the NCAA to be able to play for the Tigers as a senior in 2013-14. Redshirting is not an option for Dixon since he has already exhausted his eligibility, though the NCAA can grant him a waiver since he didn’t play any games during the 2012-13 season.
Dixon was also accused of sexual assault in January 2010.
“I hope that I can don a Memphis uniform,” Dixon said in his first public comments in more than seven months. “I hope the NCAA sees that, in a time where so many players are leaving school after one or two years and worrying about themselves, I’m a guy that wants to be in school. I could’ve easily went professional after this happened.”
Dixon averaged 13.5 points and 3.3 assists per game as a junior in 2011-12. He also shot 48.7 percent from the field, 87.9 percent from the free throw line and 36.8 percent from beyond the arc. In his three seasons with Missouri, Dixon averaged 10.5 points and 2.8 assists per game.
Dixon declined to discuss the details of the allegations made against him at Missouri any further with ESPN. However, he did express frustration with the university’s handling of the situation.
Dixon was kicked out of school despite never being charged — or even questioned — in either of the sexual assault allegations. Prosecutors in Boone County, Mo., determined a police investigation lacked sufficient evidence to interview Dixon in the second case in 2012. And the first alleged victim declined to press charges against him in 2010. Dixon said he feels as if his scholarship was “stolen” from him.
Dixon has spent the past six months working out on his own in Kansas City while taking online courses through a junior college.
While receiving a waiver is no slam dunk for Dixon, there is some precedent for the NCAA to grant him one. The NCAA awarded Dez Wells, who was expelled from Xavier amid sexual assault allegations but never charged, a waiver last fall. Wells was allowed to play immediately and led Maryland in scoring.
Dixon said Pastner assured him Memphis would work tirelessly to convince the NCAA that he should be granted a waiver.
“It’s out of my control,” Dixon said. “The Dez Wells incident …mine is so similar, in some ways. But in some ways, it’s even less of a situation, being that I never even talked to any sort of [law enforcement during that time. I feel confident, and Coach Pastner feels confident.”
Others aren’t so sure.
Two Division I coaches who were interested in having Dixon play for them and studied his situation said they thought the chances were slim that the NCAA would grant him the waiver. They noted that Dixon’s case differs from Wells’ case in two ways: Dixon was accused of sexual assault on two occasions instead of one, and Wells was expelled from Xavier for allegations of sexual assault, as decided by the Xavier Conduct Board. But when an Ohio grand jury reviewed the criminal charges against Wells, it threw them out. Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters laid into Xavier, calling the school’s procedure “severely flawed.”
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.
Dixon, who is 24 credits short of receiving his degree, might be best served by finishing his undergraduate course work through online course work by the end of the summer. If he went that route, he’d be eligible to play immediately under the NCAA’s graduate student transfer rule. The graduate student transfer rule allows students who earn their diploma before their eligibility expires to transfer without the penalty of having to sit out a season.
However, the hefty bill for the on-line work would have been a burden to Dixon’s family.
Dixon was also being pursued by Baylor, though the Bears had not yet offered him a scholarship. He also visited East Carolina and drew interest from Colorado, Houston, Oklahoma, Southern Illinois, Arizona State, Purdue and others.
How does Dixon’s arrival impact Memphis?
If Dixon is granted the waiver, the Tigers will tout one of the best backcourts in the country – along with Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson. Jackson, Crawford and Johnson are seniors who averaged double-digit scoring averages last season. Jackson led Memphis with 13.6 points and 4.8 assists while Crawford and Johnson each chipped in 10.4 points a game.
Dixon would allow head coach Josh Pastner to employ a four-guard lineup, similar to the one Dixon played in as a junior at Missouri. The Tigers went 30-5 that year.
As the roster stands right now, the Tigers will have 10 letterman returning and six incoming freshmen next year.
6-7 guard/forward Adonis Thomas (11.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg), 6-9 senior forward Tarik Black (8.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and 6-9 sophomore forward Shaq Goodwin (7.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg) will be the leaders in the front court.
The six incoming freshmen are PF Austin Nichols (Eads, Tenn./Briarcrest Christian), SF Kuran Iverson (Windsor, Conn./Fishbourne Military), SF Nick King (Memphis, Tenn./East), C Dominic Woodson (Round Rock, Texas/Huntington Prep), PG Rashawn Powell (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) and SG Markel Crawford (Memphis, Tenn./Melrose).
Memphis has gone 106-34 in Pastner’s four seasons, including a 31-5 last year. The Tigers, though, have won just one NCAA tournament game during that span. Dixon — who is known for his on-court leadership as much as his skill — is confident he can help Memphis take that next step, especially after the adversity he’s faced during the past six months.