It was time for Mizzou, Dixon to part ways

ST. LOUIS, MO. – This ended the only way it could. The Michael Dixon accusations became too graphic, too pointed and too gross for the Missouri senior guard to remain a part of the university. This is a sad case for many reasons, and none of them involve the fact that the Tigers lost someone thought to be a key contributor this season.

This became much larger than the image Dixon crafted at Mizzou Arena. Life may never be the same for him. Only he knows what happened on the nights that led to two sexual assault claims against him, one in August and another in January 2010, which became public hours before he announced his transfer Thursday night. Only he knows the truth behind a curtain of mud.

But the alleged details are haunting. If true, they’re sickening. The 2010 University of Missouri police incident report, which never led to charges because the alleged victim wanted to avoid embarrassing her family, is hard to read. It’s painful to digest.

There were alleged protests and struggle. Dixon allegedly told the young woman, then an MU employee, “If you get pregnant, you can’t be.” There was an alleged threat of kicking her in the stomach if he learned she was pregnant. There was an alleged threat of pushing her down stairs.

If true, the allegations make recent signs of support like the hashtag, “#FreeMikeDixon” that surfaced on social media seem ignorant and misguided. If true, Dixon left an emotional scar, one that time may never heal. If true, we’re left to wonder why pain was allowed to simmer for more than two years as Dixon became one of the nation’s top sixth men, someone who was thought to join junior guard Phil Pressey this season to create a feared backcourt duo. We’re left to wonder many things.

Dixon maintains his innocence. In a text message from him, relayed by a friend to the Columbia Missourian on Thursday, he wrote, “I have never harmed anyone.”

Perhaps we’ll never know the full story of what happened in both incidents. But Dixon is wrong. There was harm.

The harm was found when a woman claiming to be the August accuser tweeted last week, “You all can call me names, but I know what he did.” The harm is found deep in the 2010 report with a line that reads, “She was concerned that since Dixon is a basketball player for the University of Missouri basketball team that no one would believe her about what happened, and she may be persecuted because of it.”

We’ve reached a point where major-college athletes have become larger than themselves. They represent an identity, a supposed set of like values and a shared history that’s broadcast to the world. We watch our alma mater’s teams, and we want to believe a piece of ourselves can be found in them.

Mostly, we prefer to avoid knowledge about life in the shadows. We prefer not to know about cut corners or embarrassing personal choices by players and coaches that may produce scandal. We like our stewards contained within a court, on a field or inside our television screens for a few hours each week.

We like pep rallies and parades. Too often, we prefer our ignorance.

Dixon’s situation is an example of the current landscape’s weakness. There was fear from the alleged accusers, in part, because of what he represented. In 2010, the Kansas City native was a rising star and a former Mr. Show-Me Basketball who was on his way to leaving a mark in Columbia. By August, he had earned accolades like being named last season’s Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year and a member of the conference’s all-defensive team. More awards were thought to be in his future.  

He grew to be Mike Dixon, part of the most anticipated Mizzou team in recent memory. He grew to be Mike Dixon, part of a source of pride for a school that aches to reach its first Final Four. He grew to be Mike Dixon, a young man with much to learn about the world but also something more – part of a symbol that too often creates false value in the eyes of its followers.

So his departure is the appropriate result for all involved. This became too large, too slimy for him to play at Missouri again. He never would have been viewed the same way. The accusations’ soupy details will become part of his memory at the school forever.   

This was a sad week for many reasons. It’s best Dixon and his former program move on without each other.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.