This past weekend, Twitter erupted with rumors and allegations about junior guard Mike Dixon’s indefinite suspension and the reasons behind coach Frank Haith’s decision to bench him.
Former Missouri guard Kim English and Dixon himself sent out their displeasure with the coach’s decision to keep the player on the bench. Soon after, fans followed suit.
And though nothing is certain about exactly what Dixon did to be benched, one thing is certain: Haith thinks Dixon deserves to be benched, and that should be reason enough.
The bottom line is Haith runs the basketball program. Dixon doesn’t, English doesn’t and the fans certainly don’t. He doesn’t have to answer to fans or players. He made the decision to bench Dixon, stuck with his decision and doesn’t seem to have been wavered by any of the decision’s opposition. That’s respectable.
In an era riddled with athlete misconduct, Haith seems to be actually living up to the standards the athletic department claims to live up to. By keeping Dixon off the court, he’s sending an important message to MU athletes: If you act out, you don’t play. No exceptions.
Haith and most of the basketball team also seem to realize players’ responsibility to MU as public figures. Haith has been quiet about Dixon’s misconduct — whatever it was — and players have refrained from spreading rumors or talking publicly at all about the matter. In more ways than one, Haith has elevated his team. Though Dixon’s conduct on social media, where he criticized his coach’s decision, seems to indicate he was left behind, the rest of the basketball team has acted admirably throughout the ordeal.
Dixon and English haven’t been meeting that standard of professionalism. It should be common sense to not publicly talk about a suspension, but that didn’t stop Dixon from claiming he did “NOTHING WRONG” on Twitter.
Claiming no fault after his coach publicly stated he had, at least, broken team rules undercuts Haith’s authority and is disrespectful. If Dixon wants off the bench, he might try to show the community he’s learned something from his suspension. His recent conduct seems to indicate otherwise.
English also voiced his opposition to the decision to bench Dixon, asking MU to have as much “poise” as Dixon has throughout his suspension. English is one of the most high-profile athletes associated with MU. He should be a point of pride for MU fan base, but he isn’t acting like it. As a graduate, he should know his actions reflect his university, and his tweets only helped undermine the authority of the athletic department.
And MU fans haven’t reacted much more favorably.
Most MU fans have adopted an attitude that places a player’s athletic ability above his or her social conduct, and that’s unacceptable. No one should be blindly supporting — or condemning — Dixon until his situation becomes more clear. This lack of sportsmanship regarding MU basketball needs to stop. It’s possible to care about wins and the character of our players — they’re not mutually exclusive.
Haith has proved that he cares about wins, and now he's proving he cares about character. We respect the way he and most of his team have handled it. Now, the MU community needs to follow his lead.