COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Suspended Missouri guard Michael Dixon left the team Thursday after two sexual assault claims became public this week.
Dixon, who was not charged in either case, has been benched all season for No. 13 Missouri (5-1). The senior averaged 13.5 points as Missouri’s sixth man last season and was a projected starter.
Neither Dixon nor the university addressed the allegations in the university’s two-sentence announcement of his departure.
“It’s been a challenging few months and while I appreciate the support of many in the Mizzou community, including my coaches and teammates, it’s in the best interest of me, my family and the University of Missouri for me to finish my career elsewhere,” Dixon said.
The one-time prep star from suburban Kansas City was briefly suspended for violating unspecified team rules in December 2010 by former Missouri coach Mike Anderson, who is now at Arkansas.
That suspension came after allegations against Dixon by a woman who told The Associated Press on Thursday that she declined to press charges in part to avoid embarrassing her family.
The woman, who is now 25 and a university employee, asked that her name not be used because of safety concerns.
The AP also does not generally identify alleged sexual assault victims.
At the time of Dixon’s alleged assault, she was a recent graduate who worked for the school’s athletics department. She said she reported her concerns to campus police, who encouraged her to file charges, and complained to school officials, including Anderson.
One of Dixon’s teammates then warned the woman “to keep her mouth shut,” she said.
“At the time, I did what was right for me by not pressing charges,” she said. “It was a very personal decision.”
Over the weekend, a female student accused Dixon of sexual assault, disclosing the allegation publicly in a Twitter exchange with former Missouri guard Kim English, now a Detroit Pistons reserve.
The woman also filed a police report in August, copies of which were publicly released this week, but Boone County prosecutors decided on Nov. 16 to not file charges.
The absence of criminal charges in both cases prompted a groundswell of support for Dixon’s reinstatement among Missouri fans, with some Twitter posts calling for the school to “Free Mike Dixon.”
English was among the most vocal supporters, defending his former teammate’s “poise, class and professionalism” while also praising Missouri coach Frank Haith and chancellor Brady Deaton.
But he called a university disciplinary board apparently investigating Dixon “a joke” and said his alma mater “should be ashamed!”
Those criticisms were later deleted — as was the 19-year-old sophomore’s online accusation that prompted English’s comments.
Dixon posted his own defense that “I’ve done nothing wrong!” on Twitter after a loss to No. 2 Louisville a week ago at a tournament in the Bahamas — a tournament he traveled to with the team — but later had it removed.
Haith had declined to discuss the reasons for Dixon’s suspension, which he said did not involve NCAA matters or legal issues — a characterization subject to interpretation given that the case remained under review by local prosecutors until two weeks ago.
Most recently, Haith said he would not talk about the “rumors and allegations” involving Dixon.
The woman who first accused Dixon two years ago said she struggled with the mostly unwavering support he received during his most recent suspension.
“It’s really difficult for me to see someone praised by such a large group of people when I know how he hurt me,” she said.
The woman also said that Dixon laughingly threatened to “kick her in the stomach and push her down the stairs” if she became pregnant. She had told him earlier that she was not using birth control.
Dixon, who won the Show-Me Basketball award in 2009 as the state’s top high school player, did not respond to several messages left on his cell the past several days seeking comment.
The Columbia Missourian reported Thursday that Dixon sent a friend a series of text messages confirming his departure, alluding to the earlier assault complaint and insisting that “I have never harmed anyone.”