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With Te'o silent, questions about hoax mount

By Tom Coyne

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 09:04 a.m. HST, Jan 18, 2013

SOUTH BEND, Ind. » Manti Te'o has already tried to explain how his heartwarming story of playing through adversity was a lie he wasn't responsible for, how he was the victim of a cruel hoax about a dead girlfriend who never existed.

He still has questions to answer, with many wondering whether he was a victim or participant in the scam. Those doubts even extended to his own campus, where he is one of the most popular players in Notre Dame's storied history.

"Whenever Manti decides to speak I'll bet the entire campus will stop what they're doing and watch what he has to say," Notre Dame student body president Brett Rocheleau said Thursday. "I think the majority of students believe in Manti. They just want to hear him answer these final few questions and hear the story from his point of view."

When Te'o will do that, like so much else about this story, is still a mystery.

An Associated Press review of news coverage found that Te'o talked about his doomed love in a Web interview on Dec. 8 and again in a newspaper interview published Dec. 10. He and the university said he learned on Dec. 6 that it was all a hoax — not only was she not dead, she wasn't real.

On Thursday, a day after the bizarre news broke, there were questions about whether he really was duped, as he claimed, or whether he and the university were complicit in the hoax and misled the public, perhaps to improve his chances of winning the Heisman. He came in second, propelled by one of the most compelling plot lines of the season.

Yahoo sports columnist Dan Wetzel said the case has "left everyone wondering whether this was really the case of a naive football player done wrong by friends or a fabrication that has yet to play to its conclusion."

Gregg Doyel, national columnist for CBSSports.com, was more direct.

"Nothing about this story has been comprehensible, or logical, and that extends to what happens next," he wrote. "I cannot comprehend Manti Te'o saying anything that could make me believe he was a victim."

On Wednesday, Te'o and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said the player was drawn into a virtual romance with a woman who used the phony name Lennay Kekua, and was fooled into believing she died of leukemia in September. They said his only contact with the woman was via the Internet and telephone. Te'o was not at the news conference; the school released a 225-word statement from him.

Te'o also lost his grandmother — for real — the same day his girlfriend supposedly died, and his role in leading Notre Dame to its best season in decades endeared him to fans and put him at the center of one of college football's feel-good stories of the year.

Relying on information provided by Te'o's family members, the South Bend Tribune reported in October that Te'o and Kekua first met, in person, in 2009, and that the two had also gotten together in Hawaii, where Te'o grew up.

Sports Illustrated posted a previously unpublished transcript of a one-on-one interview with Te'o from Sept. 23. In it, he goes into great detail about his relationship with Kekua and her physical ailments. He also mentioned meeting her for the first time after a game in California.

"We met just, ummmm, just she knew my cousin. And kind of saw me there so. Just kind of regular," he told SI.

Among the outstanding questions: Why didn't Te'o ever clarify the nature of his relationship as the story took on a life of its own?

Te'o's agent, Tom Condon, said the athlete had no plans to make any public statements in Bradenton, Fla., where he has been training with other NFL hopefuls at the IMG Academy.

Notre Dame said Te'o found out that Kekua was not a real person through a phone call he received at an awards ceremony in Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 6. He told Notre Dame coaches about the situation on Dec. 26.

The AP's media review turned up two instances during that gap when the football star mentioned Kekua in public.

Te'o was in New York for the Heisman presentation on Dec. 8 and, during an interview before the ceremony that ran on the WSBT.com, the website for a South Bend TV station, Te'o said: "I mean, I don't like cancer at all. I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer. So I've really tried to go to children's hospitals and see, you know, children."

In a column that first ran in The , on Dec. 10, Te'o recounted why he played a few days after he found out Kekua died in September, and the day she was supposedly buried.

"She made me promise, when it happened, that I would stay and play," he said on Dec. 9 while attending a ceremony in Newport Beach, Calif., for the Lott Impact Awards.

On Wednesday, when Deadspin.com broke the story, Swarbrick said Notre Dame did not go public with its findings sooner because it expected the Te'o family to come forward first.

Asked if the NCAA was monitoring the Te'o story for possible rules violations, NCAA President Mark Emmert said:

"We don't know anything more than you do," he told reporters at the organization's convention in Dallas. "We're learning about this through the stories just the same as you are. But we have to wait and see what really transpired there. It's obviously (a) very disturbing story and it's hard to tell where the facts lie at this point.

"But Notre Dame is obviously looking into it and there will be a lot more to come forward. Right now, it just looks ... well, we don't know what the facts are, so I shouldn't comment beyond that."

AP Sports Writers Ralph Russo and Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.


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At this point, who really knows what to believe?

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peanutgallery wrote:
We are reminded at least once a week now how today's sports programs no longer create character; they reveal it.
on January 18,2013 | 01:54AM
BluesBreaker wrote:
That's very well put. I completely agree with your insight. As evidence, consider the account in Salon about what the ND athletic department did when Notre Dame football players were accused of rape:

Less than a day into the Manti Te’o revelations, we’ve heard more about a fake dead girlfriend of a Notre Dame football player than a real dead girl. Lizzy Seeberg committed suicide, not long after being intimidated by Notre Dame football players for reporting a sexual assault by one of their teammates. A second woman who was taken to the hospital for a rape exam declined to formally accuse another Notre Dame football player after getting a series of bullying texts from players.

Read the whole thing: http://www.salon.com/2013/01/17/notre_dames_double_standard/

on January 18,2013 | 05:27AM
OldDiver wrote:
Insightful comment peanut.
on January 18,2013 | 06:10AM
1local wrote:
just wondering how to of his 'friends' met a girl in person who does not exist. Just goes to show not to believe what the media reports - no facts or sources are checked into - 'the internet spreads mis-information virally'.
on January 18,2013 | 05:29AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
And as the Noter Dame season went on we see the character in Manti Teo. He ate,slept and lived Football. Now all major publications are focused on Deadspin.com? I never heard of them and neither did you. So please visit StartARumour.com or CreateAhater.com
on January 18,2013 | 07:57AM
Dawg wrote:
Did anybody say LAWSUIT for the poor girl that was tormented by Mongie Manti's ignorance? She'll get the first piece of his BIG paycheck! AMEN! Born poor does not mean that you should act stupid.
on January 18,2013 | 02:08AM
hanoz808 wrote:
thats crazy to find your pic on the web and its not even your name....creepy
on January 18,2013 | 06:44AM
8082062424 wrote:
It happens a whole lot. Ever watch the show catfish? they tend to expose those who do it. sad thing is Manti is in a no win place. He will either be called a fool or a liar
on January 18,2013 | 07:26AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Actually he's in a win position. Not of his making, but his agents and lawyers can wait a bit to push All In at any time.
on January 18,2013 | 07:39AM
RichardCory wrote:
I would have never even known this guy existed if not for this stream of worthless news stories. Why should anyone care about this childish drama?
on January 18,2013 | 02:32AM
honokai wrote:
Millions and millions of people are interested in sports and the NFL. Even more millions are interested in celebrities. I suppose your real question is why does most of the world think differently than me. The answer is because you are different. Being different is OK. But it also could be interpreted as arrogance if you claim your way of thinking is the only correct way. Aloha my friend. Have a terrific day!
on January 18,2013 | 05:13AM
allie wrote:
well put
on January 18,2013 | 05:21AM
FrankieT wrote:
I agree
on January 18,2013 | 06:24AM
fishwrider wrote:
I guess you live under a rock.
on January 18,2013 | 06:26AM
pgkemp wrote:
join the armsrong club.........
on January 18,2013 | 05:05AM
1local wrote:
'Lie Strong'
on January 18,2013 | 05:30AM
jussayin wrote:
Then sell the rights to a book and movie. Ahhh, that's America.
on January 18,2013 | 07:48AM
hukihei wrote:
This "story" makes the Ridiculist, #1. Pitiful ,when one considers the educational institutions involved. Mandatory Ethics 101 for every athlete playing high school /college sports?
on January 18,2013 | 05:13AM
Allenk wrote:
I hate to say it, but his non-existent girlfriend somehow managed to pass away just as the season crested and prior to his Heisman nomination. I would guess that if she were gone, then many things would be either explained away or pushed aside, unless of course investigations into death records or a grave site were located which in this case happened.
on January 18,2013 | 06:14AM
Valleyisle57 wrote:
This will probably be the #1 sports story of 2013, but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.
on January 18,2013 | 06:27AM
hanoz808 wrote:
his father should be looked at too. His father has been "hyping" him up since high school. His award he won at Poly camp was run by his uncle, but that was never really bought to light.
on January 18,2013 | 06:46AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
The poly camp was run by uncle. Hundreds of the attendees were playing for uncle. Get a life.
on January 18,2013 | 08:42AM
st1d wrote:
tough situation for manti. hoping that tuiasosopo was not taping their phone calls in this crying game.
on January 18,2013 | 06:34AM
hanoz808 wrote:
LOL cause I think I heard that rumor
on January 18,2013 | 06:44AM
maafifloos wrote:
Welcome to reality. This is like when you first realize there is no Santa Claus.l
on January 18,2013 | 07:19AM
whaole wrote:
My only thought: Can he play football? Is he a good student? If the answers are YES! Then, leave him alone. He's done nothing to hurt anyone except maybe himself. Now, we should leave him alone. Did he break any laws? No! Leave him alone. Don't you all think he's embarrassed or suffered enough? Why are we making his business our business. LEAVE HIM ALONE!
on January 18,2013 | 07:37AM
primo1 wrote:
This news broke only a couple of days ago and I'm already tired of reading about it. Just let me know when he's scheduled to appear on "Oprah"...
on January 18,2013 | 07:46AM
jussayin wrote:
Unfortunately it appears Teo and possibly ND misled the media and public. Then comes what is the reason for the hoax; was it to gain attention to himself and to win the Heisman? This is about character which hopefully is more important than being a good athlete or making a lot of money. Prefer to cheer on a good and decent person who tries their best than a liar and scheming person who is successful. NOT saying Teo is guilty [yet] but unless he comes forward, that's how this 'story' is turning out to be. And there are a number of facts that point to that, e.g. SI interview, Tribune interview, etc. which is included the article.
on January 18,2013 | 07:47AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
The word hoax was conjured by the press. This is all about the media and the shark frenzy. There is 100,000 so called sportswriters in the USA, maybe more.....and Deadspin.com, breaks the story? Fishy.....
on January 18,2013 | 08:46AM
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