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This isn't meant to condemn Michael Dixon. This isn't meant to condemn Dez Wells.
This isn't meant to condemn Josh Pastner and Memphis. This isn't meant to condemn Mark Turgeon and Maryland.
Frankly, this isn't meant to condemn anyone. It's just an attempt to wrap my head around a complex issue that the NCAA has made a little too uncomplicated.
Dixon, the former Missouri guard who is transferring to Memphis, will apply for a waiver from the NCAA in the hopes to play immediately and bypass the requisite transfer year. He, along with Memphis, would be wise to argue that his case is no different than that of Wells.
Like Dixon, Wells was accused of sexual assault but never charged for the crime and prosecuted. Xavier dismissed him from school anyway, just like Missouri did with Dixon.
Wells appealed to the NCAA under its hardship waiver and won, earning the chance to play for Maryland last season.
And now here is Dixon, with the same accusations and no charges, asking for the same latitude.
There's no reasonable way the NCAA can deny him a waiver. None.
When Memphis submits the paperwork, the only fair decision -- the only decision available -- is to allow Dixon to play this season.
Which is exactly the problem. The NCAA has painted itself into a tricky corner with no available exits.
|Michael Dixon was considered the best sixth man in college basketball in 2011-12. By November, he was off Missouri's team.|
The NCAA won't allow a player to compete at a different school immediately if his coach moves to another job. It won't allow an exception if a player leaves in good academic, moral and ethical standing but simply realizes too late he made the wrong choice. And since citing ill relatives at home became vogue on waiver applications, it has made those clearances more difficult too.
But here, in the midst of a horrific and complicated morass of sexual assault allegations of all things, the NCAA has set a precedent.
And it's a dangerous one.
I have no clue what happened with Dixon or Wells. Neither does the NCAA.
Only a handful of people do -- the two men and their accusers.
Dixon and Wells may very well be innocent. Rape charges are complicated largely because they often boil down to a he said/she said.
The presence of a charge doesn't mean the assault happened. Sadly, often men are accused unjustly, a crime every bit as heinous as the assault itself.
But the absence of prosecution doesn't mean it didn't happen either. It merely means there wasn't enough evidence for the charge to stick.
For those complicated reasons and for the simpler one that it has no legal jurisdiction, the NCAA has made a point to keep its nose out of legal issues (Penn State notwithstanding).
There is nothing in its voluminous rulebook to tell a school what to do if an athlete is arrested on possession of marijuana or any illegal drug (only if an athlete tests positive in an NCAA administered test), arrested for a fight or arrested for anything.
Those decisions are left to the school.
Three years ago, I wrote about sexual assault involving athletes. Here's what Mark Emmert told me: "Ideally [punishment] is something that happens at the university level, where there is a much greater familiarity with the individual situation."
So how can the NCAA wash its hands of punishment yet go elbow deep in immediate exoneration? If the Indianapolis organization is, as it loves to tout itself, merely a conglomeration of member institutions, shouldn't it adhere to what those member institutions decide?
Fairly or unfairly, Xavier's Conduct Board chose to expel Wells following the assault accusation; Missouri booted Dixon from the team following his second such accusation.
If, as Emmert said, the university is best suited to make decisions on individual cases, then those decisions ought to be the standard.
Instead, by clearing Wells, the NCAA has essentially overturned Xavier's expulsion and paved the way for Dixon and whoever else should follow to receive the same clear path to immediate participation, university decision be damned.
As crazy as it sounds in a situation ripe with such real-world horrors as rape and false accusations, this isn't about guilt versus innocence, accusations versus real charges.
It's about whether an organization that exists merely as an umbrella to guide its member institutions is going to follow the path set by those institutions or be judge and jury via the waiver appeal in cases it frankly has no jurisdiction.
Of course, it may be too late to even argue.
The precedent has been set.
And it's not a good one.