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Bizarre World of Notre Dame’s Te’o

Friday, January 18, 2013


Where to begin?

This Manti Te’o story is certainly an example where truth is stranger than fiction.

Everyone knows the story by now. Manti Te’o’s deceased girlfriend isn’t dead after all. She isn’t dead because she was never alive to begin with!

In what is clearly a hoax for the ages, the only thing that has yet to be determined is how many people perpetrated it and was Te’o himself involved?

Lord knows I’m no rocket scientist, but based upon all of the evidence to date, I can’t see how Te’o wasn’t involved here.

A few months ago, Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel wrote a story about Te’o and his alleged girlfriend. You can read the story here.

Today, Thamel published the portion of the transcript of his interview with Te’o pertaining to his alleged girlfriend. You can read it right here. After reading it, I find it impossible to believe that Te’o wasn’t involved in the hoax.

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick held a press conference Wednesday where he went all-in with his support of Te’o claiming that the star linebacker was the victim of an unusually cruel hoax.

Here is the transcript of Swarbrick’s statement:

JACK SWARBRICK: Good evening. Thanks to all of you for joining us on relatively short notice. We're here tonight, obviously, because of an article that appeared in Deadspin earlier today and to address the subject matter of that article.

My focus here tonight is to talk to you about what the University knew, when we knew it, and what decisions we made based on that information. Much of what drove that process and those decisions relates in part to a fundamental view of the importance of student privacy, and that will likely play a role tonight also because, at the end of the day, this is Manti's story to tell and we believe he should have the right to tell it, which he is going to do.

So there may be some questions this evening which I defer to him, but I will try to be as responsive as I possibly can to all of your questions.

While we still don't know all of the dimensions of this and other than the perpetrators, I can assure you that no one knows all of the dimensions of this there are certain things that I feel confident we do know. The first is that this was a very elaborate, very sophisticated hoax perpetrated for reasons we can't fully understand but had a certain cruelty at its core, based on the exchanges that we were able to see between some of the people who perpetrated it.

Manti was the victim of that hoax. Manti is the victim of that hoax, and he will carry that with him for a while.

In many ways, Manti was the perfect mark because he is a guy who is so willing to believe in others and so ready to help that, as this hoax played out in a way that called upon those tendencies of Manti and roped him more and more into the trap. He was not a person who would have a second thought about offering his assistance and help in engaging fully.

Finally and reflective of that, I want to stress, as someone who has probably been as engaged in this as anyone in the past couple of weeks, that nothing about what I have learned has shaken my faith in Manti Te'o one iota. The same great young man, great student, and great athlete that we have been so proud to have be a member of our family is the same guy tonight, unchanged in any way, except for, as he indicated in a statement in his release, the embarrassment associated with having been a victim in this case.

On the morning of December 26th, very early morning, Manti called his coaches to inform them that, while he was in attendance at the ESPN awards show in Orlando, he received a phone call from a number he recognized as having been that he associated with Lennay Kekua. When he answered it, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same voice he had talked to, who told him that she was, in fact, not dead.

Manti was very unnerved by that, as you might imagine. I will let him again talk about that and his reaction to it. But he maintained that secret vis a vis the members of the football family until he called the coaches on the morning of the 26th. They promptly reached out to me to inform me of this shocking piece of news, and I arranged to meet Manti upon his return to campus and did so on the afternoon of the 27th.

I met with Manti for about an hour and 45 minutes and asked him to review every detail of the relationship as he knew it with this woman. Manti did so, was forthright, answered every question, and was eager to share the information with me.

I met with him again the next day, as I had put the notes together from the previous day's meeting, to just review again what we had gone over to make sure I had all the details correct. And, again, he was a full and excellent partner in making sure that the information I collected was accurate.

I then took that information and shared it with other leaders in the university for a deliberation as to next steps, what we should do. Some additional questions of Manti were then developed, which he again promptly responded, and a decision was made to engage in an independent investigative firm to see if they could determine what was at the nature of what increasingly appeared to us to be a sophisticated hoax.

While apprised by that investigative firm of their work along the way, we received a final report from them on January 4th. I met with Brian and Ottilia Te'o in Miami on the 5th to share with them the essence of those findings. We left that meeting with an understanding that they would think about what they had heard, engaged Manti's future representation, which would be determined later in the week, in consultation as to how to best respond, and keep the university fully informed of their intentions and work in concert with us when they were ready to communicate the story.

It was my understanding  that they were on a timetable to release the story themselves next week when today's story broke.

With that, I welcome the opportunity to take any questions.

Notre Dame Officials Should

Swarbrick and Notre Dame officials would have been better served to do a little more homework before allowing Swarbrick to take to the podium in defense of Te’o because it certainly appears that they are dead wrong.

The big question is: why did Te’o allegedly perpetrate this hoax? Did the young man crave attention that much that he had to create such an unbelievable story? Was it a cover for the possibility that Te’o is not heterosexual? Or was it simply a harmless prank by a college kid that grew a life of its own and had spiraled out of control becoming much bigger than he and everyone else had ever anticipated?

Whatever the case may be, Te’o needs to do the right thing and come clean here. If, as suspected, he was involved, he needs to admit it. And he needs to explain to the world why he decided to do something like this in the first place.

In the meantime, media outlets, Notre Dame officials and others need to do some digging because there are many facts here that need to be checked out.

For instance, if Te’o did spend 8 hours at a time on the phone with his alleged girlfriend, a simple check of phone records can either confirm or deny that part of the story.

If, as expected, that turns out to be false, Te’o will have some explaining to do.

Many are speculating how this hoax might effect Te’o’s position in the April NFL Draft. A projected high first round pick, some wonder if this character issue will drop him right out of the first round all together.

Nobody really knows the answer to that yet. However, it’s been said before that NFL teams only care about winning and will justify the selection of any player if they are talented enough. For example, if Jeffrey Dahmer ran a 4.3 40-yard dash, NFL GM’s might justify their selection of him by proclaiming that he simply suffered from an eating disorder.

Whatever the case may be, it’s time for Te’o to stop hiding behind his public statement and break his silence. He needs to stand up in front of the cameras and microphones and tell us exactly what the deal is.

Anything less is unacceptable.



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