NCAA drops its investigation into former Blue Devil Lance Thomas

lkeeley@newsobserver.comApril 30, 2013 

The NCAA has finished its inquiry into a 2009 jewelry purchase totaling nearly $100,000 by former Duke basketball player Lance Thomas and found no wrongdoing. There will be no disciplinary action against the school.

“The NCAA has found no evidence of a rules violation in this situation based on the information available, and both the NCAA and Duke consider the matter closed,” said a university statement released by associate athletic director Jon Jackson.

A lawsuit made public in September brought attention to Thomas’s Dec. 21, 2009, purchase of $97,800 worth of custom jewelry from Manhattan-based Rafaello and Co. Thomas, home on winter break midway through his senior year at Duke, made a $30,000 down payment and signed a purchase agreement to pay the remaining balance within 15 days. He defaulted on the payment, and the jeweler filed a lawsuit in January 2012 for the outstanding balance. Thomas and Rafaello and Co. settled the lawsuit on Sept. 18. Terms were confidential.

Duke reported the lawsuit to the NCAA when it came to light in case there was a rules violation. 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.

Duke went on to win the program’s fourth national championship at the end of the 2009-10 season.

Both the jeweler and Thomas refused to speak with the NCAA, making a potential investigation difficult. The NCAA does not have subpoena power and cannot force former student-athletes or third parties to talk. Thomas, now with the New Orleans Pelicans, did not return a call for comment.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski only publicly spoke once about the case, in October when Duke officially began practice. He said the school intended to cooperate fully with the NCAA’s process.

“Before anything was made public, they started working together to go through a process of seeing what happened,” Krzyzewski said of Duke and the NCAA then. “I have complete trust and confidence in all the parties involved and am very proud of our compliance record over the 33 years that we’ve been here.”

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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