Lance Thomas: Former Duke Star Embroiled in Potential Benefits Scandal

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS - APRIL 05:  Lance Thomas #42 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates after the Blue Devils defeat the Butler Bulldogs 61-59 in the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 5, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

For those that don’t know or have just forgotten, current New Orleans Hornets/Austin Toros forward Lance Thomas attended Duke University for four years, including helping the team win the National Title in 2010.

Now his actions may be at the center of a huge benefits scandal that could rock the school.

According to a report from Yahoo!Sports Dan Wetzel, Thomas purchased “a black diamond necklace, a diamond-encrusted watch, a diamond cross, diamond earrings, and a black diamond pendant in the shape of Jesus' head. The grand total: $97,800. He paid $30,000. The bill of sale called for the rest within 15 days.”

While this spending seems egregious to the common man, this is not the issue at hand; many athletes and people with considerable wealth throw around cash like this on a regular basis.

Thomas never paid back the remainder of the bill, though, and now the jeweler, Rafaello & Co. in midtown Manhattan, is looking to sue the NBA player for the outstanding balance on the purchases.

The problem here is that the purchases reportedly happened on Dec. 21, 2009 when he was still a senior at Duke University.

With serious questions about where the money came from and what would make the jeweler allow a 21-year-old student to credit that much debt, the influence the school had on the incident has more than a few eyebrows raised.

As Wetzel correctly states, “NCAA rules are clear that a student-athlete can't receive any ‘extra benefit’ based on his celebrity as a player or against future professional earnings.”

There are still many more questions than answers at this point, but this could be a serious issue for Duke if there was some sort of agreement between the jeweler and Thomas or Thomas can’t come up with a real source for the $30,000 he spent that day.

If Thomas is found to have accepted ‘extra benefits’ from the jeweler, an agent or someone else, legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke University could be facing severe punishments; even possibly vacating their 2010 National Championship.


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