Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te'o (5) after the 22-13 victory against the Southern California Trojans during the second half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Foss, USA TODAY Sports
Manti Te'o says he is the victim of a hoax. A 'Catfish.' His girlfriend, Lenay Kekua wasn't real.
"To think that I shared ... my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick," Te'o said in a statement. "I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been."
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick is standing by the captain of the football team.
"Every single thing about this, until that day in the first week of December, was real to Manti, "Swarbrick said."There was no suspicion it wasn't. No belief it might not be. The pain was real. The grief was real. The affection was real. That's the nature of this sad, cruel game."
Yet, there are clear discrepancies which shake the ground on which Te'o and Swarbrick are standing. Especially from an Oct. 12, 2012 story in the South Bend Tribune.
Eric Hansen, who wrote the story for the Tribune, told of Te'o and Kekua's first meeting:
"Their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te'o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes."
"Lennay Kekua was a Stanford student and a Cardinal football fan when the two exchanged glances, handshakes and phone numbers that fateful weekend three seasons ago."
It is a romantic meeting which Swarbrick claims never happened.
"Several meetings were set up where Lennay never showed," Swarbrick said Wednesday.
Brian Te'o, Manti's father, was quoted in the same Tribune story detailing his son's meeting with Kekua in Hawaii, contradicting Swarbrick:
"They started out as just friends," Brian Te'o said. "Every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there. But within the last year, they became a couple."
"And we came to the realization that she could be our daughter-in-law. Sadly, it won't happen now."
The Tribune's story was written in October, and Swarbrick says Te'o discovered he had been deceived Dec. 6, when the linebacker received a call from a person he believed to be Kekua. On Dec. 8, Te'o gave Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune the following quote, which Hamilton shared on Twitter Wednesday:
"Manti Te'o on 12/8, 2 days after hoaxers call again: "I don't like cancer at all. I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer."
Why, after just learning this person was not dead, would he discuss her death?
Further oddities come in an interview with Kate Sullivan in which Te'o shared details of his relationship with Kekua:
"Before she passed, I know it's kind of creepy, but she would write letters for me before every game," Te'o told Sullivan. "The Stanford game was the last game she wrote a letter for."
Notre Dame beat Stanford on Oct. 13, one month and three games after Kekua's alleged passing. It's entirely plausible that Kekua had written the letters ahead of time. But why stop at Stanford?
Te'o was never able to tell Kekua he loved her in person. Not once, was Kekua in the stands in South Bend, nor Te'o by her bedside. Despite such an allegedly strong emotional relationship, Te'o was never moved enough to visit the woman he professed to love nor attend her funeral.
It all is so convoluted, so outrageous, and so sad.
USA TODAY Sports