Over the weekend I was attending a bachelor party for our boy Derrick. Saturday morning I woke up in a haze from the previous nights...festivities...and decided that instead of cracking the first beer pre-10 am, I'd check Twitter. Upon doing so I saw tweets from multiple college basketball personalities saying that Duke's 2010 National Championship was possibly in danger of being vacated due to a player from that team receiving improper benefits. I thought to myself, "OK, Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler or a Plumlee maybe the one involved." It had to be someone with an obvious or close to obvious NBA future.
Then I read it was Lance Thomas, a role player who is battling it out in the D-League currently, and on the 2010 team was just a senior role player who had somewhat underwhelmed throughout his career. Either way I would have been pissed, but if Duke is going to get in trouble with the NCAA, I want it to be worth it.
Derrick Rose for Memphis. Marcus Camby for UMass. Currently Shabazz Muhammad being looked at for UCLA. All of these guys are/were the top dogs at their respective schools and then either did get or maybe currently in trouble with the NCAA. Not a guy who scored more floor burns than points in his career.
Some of the details of the case are; Thomas is being sued by Rafaello & Co for an unpaid loan from 2009, while Lance Thomas was a senior on Duke's basketball team.
According to the lawsuit, obtained by The Associated Press, Thomas put down $30,000 in cash for his purchase of a black diamond necklace, diamond-encrusted watch, diamond cross and diamond pendant in the shape of Jesus' head. He was expected to pay the remainder -- the unpaid $67,800 in question -- in 15 days.
How do professional sports players so frequently end up broke, so soon after their playing careers are over? Hmmm...maybe it is spending $100,000 on a freaking DIAMOND PENDANT OF A JESUS' HEAD!!
I am a Duke fan, but there is no doubt in my mind that no other Duke senior who majored in visual arts, as Lance did, could get a loan from Rafaello & Co for $67,800, unless their parents were very, very well off and co-signed. Lance's didn't seem to co-sign, as they would be in the lawsuit, not just Lance. Which means to me that Lance received "improper benefits" due to his status as a starting PF for Duke. Which means to me, that he was ineligible during Duke's title run. Which means to me, that with cases like this (Derrick Rose at Memphis with their Final Four run) have lead the NCAA to have teams vacate wins in which the ineligible player played which will lead the NCAA to have Duke vacate it's 2010 title.
I rip John Calipari as much as anyone, so I can't be a hypocrite now that Duke has a situation that in some ways mirrors some of Coach Cal's. There could be a valid reason that Rafaello & Co gave Lance the loan. There maybe an argument made that any visual arts major at Duke in the same situation without playing basketball for Duke could have gotten the loan. If that argument does come and it clears Duke and Lance of any wrong doing (other than not paying the loan back...C'mon Lance...pay your debt's bud) then I celebrate and move on to focusing on Duke's upcoming season.
Another way for Duke to be cleared is if the jeweler, Lance and Duke may just not talk to the NCAA... because (as Eamonn Brennan of ESPN pointed out) they don't really have to. The jeweler and Lance have the issue here, just because the NCAA has interest in the situation doesn't mean that Lance or the jeweler will allow the NCAA to explore it's curiosity. For Duke, it is a trickier situation as the NCAA will be even more suspicious, and as Brennan says the "NCAA...very, very much dislikes being deceived." As long as Duke knew nothing about this, they can talk all they want about how they knew nothing. Then it is on everyone else involved between Thomas and the jeweler to stay hush-hush.
Tough to say how this will turn out. I am hoping for an explanation by Lance Thomas or Rafaello & Co. that will please the NCAA and that then Thomas takes care of his debt. Unfortunately that is probably the least likely way this will play out. If there was a great explanation, it'd probably already be out by now. So, for Duke's sake I guess I am rooting for silence. For integrity's sake, I am hoping the truth comes out and the consequences fit the "crime".
I'll obviously be monitoring this...just hoping by November I won't have to write much more about it and will instead write about how Mason Plumlee is about to lead Duke to another title minus the diamond encrusted necklaces.