Lance Thomas (Getty Images)
Asked at New Orleans Hornets media day on Monday whether he violated NCAA rules, Thomas told the Durham Herald Sun, "No. I don't think so." Thomas then declined to elaborate further, adding only that "everything will unfold once everything is taken care of the right way."
Thomas' jewelry purchase first became public knowledge last month when a New York jeweler sued him for failing to pay the final $67,800 of his bill. The lawsuit made headlines nationwide because it pulled the curtains back on a potential infractions case seemingly capable of jeopardizing Duke's 2010 national title.
It's not surprising Thomas would choose not to go into detail about the purchase since he signed a confidentiality agreement as part of the settlement he and the jeweler reached last month. Furthermore, the NCAA has no subpoena power and no way of forcing him to cooperate now that he is no longer at Duke.
At the same time, Thomas should know his silence comes with a price. Questions will plague both him and the Duke program until he can satisfactorily answer how a college senior from a single-parent home had $30,000 to use on a down payment for jewelry or how he persuaded a jeweler to grant him a $67,800 loan.
It's unlikely the NCAA would punish Duke without Thomas or the jeweler cooperating with an investigation unless a third party comes forward and acknowledges he provided Thomas with the money.
Speaking in general terms rather than specifically about the Duke case, NCAA president Mark Emmert told CBSSports.com on Monday his governing body could charge a member school with a rules violation under those circumstances but verifying the facts would be "a big challenge."
"We certainly could deal with a case where we don't necessarily have cooperation from the actors, but we still have to rely on facts and rely on well-established information," Emmert said. "It occasionally drives fans out there crazy because they'll read in a blog or some other source that this or that happened. But the standards of evidence that we use are pretty darn high because we're dealing with people's lives here."
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