Former Duke basketball player Lance Thomas settled his pending lawsuit with the jeweler suing him for defaulting on a $67,800 payment, making a potential investigation much tougher for the NCAA.
We have reached a settlement, Mike Bowers, the attorney for Raefello & Co. wrote in an email. I cannot make further comment."
Terms of the settlement are confidential. While the NCAA and Duke will continue to work together on the matter, the jeweler will not be participating in any potential investigation. Bowers confirmed to the News & Observer last week that his client declined to talk to the NCAA.
The NCAA does not have subpoena power, so it cannot force the jeweler or Thomas to cooperate with an investigation.
Thomas purchased $97,800 worth of custom jewelry on Dec. 21, 2009, midway through his senior year. He made a $30,000 down payment and signed a purchase agreement to pay the balance within 15 days. Thomas defaulted on his payment. Raefello & Co. filed a lawsuit in January after repeated attempts to collect payment.
Unanswered are two key questions: How did Thomas get $30,000 for a down payment, and how was a college student extended a $67,800 loan?
Athletes are in violation of NCAA bylaw 16.01.3 if they receive extra benefits such as loans based on future earnings potential based on their athletic status. Any such benefit would be considered an extra benefit and put Thomas eligibility in jeopardy.
Finding answers will be more difficult without input from the jeweler.
If everybody keeps their mouth shut and everybody refuses to talk to the NCAA, and by everybody I mean Thomas and the jeweler and whoever might have provided him this $30,000 if it did come from someone else, then theres not much the NCAA can do if they dont get information, John Infante, a former assistant director of compliance at Colorado State who now writes a blog on compliance issues, said last week. A lot of these extra benefit cases, the person that provided the benefit might not be willing to talk to the NCAA.
When asked how the settlement affected the NCAAs position, spokesperson Stacey Osburn reiterated the organizations Sept. 7 statement We are aware of the matter and have been in communication with the university and declined to comment further.
The process remains the same in that Duke and the NCAA continue to work together on the matter, Duke associate athletic director Jon Jackson said Tuesday in an emailed statement.
Neither Thomas nor Joe Crews, his attorney, responded to multiple phone calls seeking comment.
The NCAA must inform Duke in writing by Dec. 21, 2013 of its intent to investigate.
If the NCAA decides to investigate, it would not be subject to any type of due process, said David Ridpath, a former director of compliance at Marshall and current Ohio University professor who has testified before Congress on compliance issues. The organizations power to investigate and punish at will stems from a 1988 Supreme Court case. NCAA v. Tarkanian ruled that, even though its membership was composed of state universities, the NCAA itself was not a state actor.
Its essentially considered a private club, Ridpath said. And in private clubs, they can make rules that might seem a little bit strange to the rest of us and get away with it.
Right now, the NCAA does not have to provide due process, and they dont have to answer to too many people with regard to their investigative and enforcement infractions processes that they have.
Duke athletic director Kevin White, speaking generally about the challenges facing college athletics, said compliance is a major issue.
Its all-consuming, never-ending, he said. Its something you have to be ever vigilant on and about. So many units, so many transactions, so many opportunities to find yourself in a highly unfavorable position that can discredit your institution, staff, student-athletes, so many people that are part of the enterprise.