The NCAA found no violations regarding a $97,800 jewelry purchase made by former Duke basketball player Lance Thomas during his senior season.
Melissa Yeo / Chronicle File Photo
The NCAA found no violations regarding a $97,800 jewelry purchase made by former Duke basketball player Lance Thomas during his senior season.

Duke basketball can go into the 2013-2014 season without the Lance Thomas jewelry scandal hanging over its head.

The NCAA has cleared Thomas of all violations relating to a $97,800 jewelry purchase he made Dec. 21, 2009 at Rafaello and Co., a jeweler in New York City. Thomas, a senior at the time, paid $30,000 for the jewelry upfront and was sued last fall for the balance of the payment.

The NCAA ruling came weeks ago, but the University made no official statement on the matter until today.

Thomas and the jewelers reached a “confidential settlement” slightly more than a week after news of the lawsuit broke, Mike Bowers, the jewelers’ lawyer, said at the time. Despite the settled lawsuit, Thomas remained under investigation by the NCAA for the nature of the purchase.

“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,” the University said in a statement.

Emily Potter, NCAA associate director of public and media relations, confirmed Duke's statement though declined to comment further per NCAA investigation policy.

Thomas' agent, John Spencer said Thomas dealt with the situation through his lawyer, Joe Crews, who could not be reached for comment.

The purchase broached concerns about how Thomas obtained the money to make the purchase or why the jewelers allowed him to pay so little up front, which could in turn raise questions about his eligibility for that season. The purchase came just two days after the Blue Devils, who went on to win the 2010 national championship that year, played Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden.

According to NCAA bylaw article 16, “Receipt of a benefit by student-athletes or their relatives or friends is not a violation of NCAA legislation if it is demonstrated that the same benefit is generally available to the institution’s students or their relatives or friends or to a particular segment of the student body... determined on a basis unrelated to athletics ability.”

After the story broke, many commentators suggested that Duke’s 2010 national championship could be in jeopardy.

Thomas just finished his season with the New Orleans Hornets, his second in the NBA. In 59 games, of which he started nine, he averaged 2.5 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. In his senior year at Duke, he averaged 25.3 minutes per game, notching 4.8 points and 4.9 rebounds.

Last summer, Thomas played on the USA Select Team, which the USA Olympic men’s basketball team, coached by Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, played against in practice. Former Blue Devil Kyrie Irving was also on the USA Select Team.