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Notre Dame to Te'o: Time to speak up

By Tom Coyne

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 04:27 p.m. HST, Jan 18, 2013


SOUTH BEND, Ind. » Three days after news broke about his fake dead girlfriend, Manti Te'o is still mum and Notre Dame has urged the star linebacker to speak up — and soon.

Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said the school has encouraged the Heisman Trophy finalist to talk publicly about a hoax that turned the feel-good story of the college football season into one of the most bizarre in memory.

During the taping of his weekly radio show, posted online Friday, Swarbrick called on Te'o to explain exactly how he was duped into an online relationship with a woman whose "death" was faked by people behind the scam.

Skeptics have questioned statements from Te'o and Notre Dame, wondering why the player failed to mention he never met his girlfriend face-to-face, or tell the school about the ruse until Dec. 26 — nearly three weeks after officials say Te'o learned he had been fooled.

Swarbrick believes Te'o ultimately will speak publicly.

"I don't have any specific knowledge as to how and when, but I can't fathom a circumstance where it doesn't (happen). I sort of share everybody's view that it has to happen," he said. "We are certainly encouraging it to happen. We think it's important and we'd like to see it happen sooner rather than later."

He said that before Deadspin.com broke the news about the hoax in a lengthy report Wednesday, Te'o and his family had planned to go public with the story Monday.

"Sometimes the best laid plans don't quite work, and this was an example of that. Because the family lost the opportunity in some ways to control the story," he said. "It is in the Te'o family's court. We are very much encouraging them."

Former NFL coach Tony Dungy, who mentored Michael Vick when he returned to the NFL after doing prison time, had similar advice.

"I don't know the whole case but I always advise people to face up to it and just talk to people and say what happened," Dungy said while attending the NCAA convention in Dallas on Friday. "The truth is the best liberator, so that's what I would do. And he's going to get questioned a lot about it."

Te'o led a lightly regarded Fighting Irish team to a 12-0 regular season and the BCS title game, where they were routed 42-14 by Alabama and Te'o played poorly.

He was said to be staying at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where he and about 35 other NFL draft hopefuls were invited to work out. He has been projected to be a first-round draft pick in April, possibly among the first 10 picks.

Several athletes at IMG tweeted on Friday that they had seen Te'o on the sprawling campus. But he was never spotted by a group of reporters who waited nearby for a chance to ask him a question. His agent Tom Condon didn't return messages and the IMG Academy didn't respond to requests for comment.

Dungy said Te'o could face the toughest questions from NFL teams.

"If I was still coaching and we're thinking about taking this guy in the first round, you want to know not exactly what happened but what is going on with this young man and is it going to be a deterrent to him surviving in the NFL and is it going to stop him from being a star," Dungy said. "So just tell the truth about what happened and this is why, I think, that's the best thing."

On campus, the mood was still supportive, though some students were looking for answers, too.

"I'd like to know more, but I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt, that he's just being gullible," said Stephen Raab, a chemical engineer freshman from Bloomington, Minn.

Long Tran, who roomed with Te'o in his freshman and sophomore years, said he "wholeheartedly" believes his friend was the victim of the hoax, not a willing participant, as was suggested in the Deadspin report.

"Funny thing, I think he went to classes more than I did and I'm an engineering major," Tran said. "During regular season, he would barely go out. Most of the times, he didn't have the time to with his training schedule. He stayed focused 100 percent. I remember one time, a football player came into our room drunk and was talking to Manti, asking him why he didn't go out with them. Manti responded, 'Because we have practice tomorrow.' He was definitely sociable. He knew most people in the dorm and everyone knew who he was, obviously."

Tran said he knew nothing about Lennay Kekua, the online girlfriend who supposedly died of leukemia during the season but, it turns out, didn't even exist. Tran said Te'o wasn't particularly tech savvy, saying the linebacker didn't own a laptop his first two years at college.

"He was using my laptop to do his homework. If he was Skyping his family he would use my laptop," Tran said.

Tran said Te'o kept a low profile and didn't date a lot. "Girls would come to the room and visit him and (Notre Dame cornerback) Lo Wood and hang out," he said. "But there was no talk of an official girlfriend or anything."

Deadspin reported that friends and relatives of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old who lives in California, believe he created Kekua. The website also reported Te'o and Tuiasosopo knew each other — which has led to questions about Te'o's involvement in the hoax.

Swarbrick understands why there are questions.

"They have every right to say that," Swarbrick said "Now I have some more information than they have. But they have every right to say that. ... I just ask those people to apply the same skepticism to everything about this. I have no doubt the perpetrators have a story they will yet spin about what went on here. I hope skepticism also greets that when they're articulating what that is."

___

AP sports writers Tim Reynolds and Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.

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lowtone123 wrote:
Te'o is probably being told by his agent or his dad to stay quiet until they can do damage control but the public will form their own opinion and the longer he waits, the more guilty he will look. He may also be inviting people coming out of the woodwork with lies and halftruths looking for publicity (i.e. Reagan Mauia).
on January 18,2013 | 08:48AM
kk808 wrote:
I agree that Manti should speak out soon but I can understand why the delay. After all, how many of us can hold a news conference of this type of issue? Appearing before the press talking about family, Notre Dame, and football is something he's comfortable with. But how do you hold a press conference of this nature? It's hard enough for anyone to admit they were duped, especially in public. And of course, you have to prepare yourself for the many type of questions the reporters will be asking. If you are not prepared you will appear to look guilty even if you're not.
on January 18,2013 | 09:09AM
allie wrote:
true..if he ever does speak you can be sure Notre dame will have scripted him so that the football factory won't be harmed. I blame the so-called "university" as much as Manti.
on January 18,2013 | 09:37AM
hawaii_io wrote:
Manti Teo and his family is so deep in their bull***t, and that is why they ain't saying anything right now! They're working on their next batch of lies to cover up for all the BS stories they had been telling sports writers throughout the season. C'mon bruddah, you're dad (Brian) is on record saying that he "Met" his girlfriend, even saying that she visited the family in Hawaii? How can this be, if she DOES NOT EXIST? Manti even is on tape talking about his "Girlfriend", after supposedly being told that the whole thing was a hoax! Why was he still making like she was real? And all these people coming forward trying to cover his "Hoax", trying to take the pressure off of Manti, is sickening! BOTTOM LINE Bruddah's & Sistah's....Manti Teo and his Ohana all played along in this story about this make believe girlfriend! As far as I am concerned, they need to come forard and tell the truth! They need to stop making the people of Laie look like a bunch of idiots, as they try to defend this boy! The rest of Hawaii and the Nation know that Manti was "Bull"""""ing", so it's time for him and his family to give it up!!!! The Hoax is on them, and not on us! MAN UP BRAH!!!!!
on January 18,2013 | 04:31PM
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