Manti Te'o, Notre Dame linebacker, photo courtesy US Presswire
By Dan Wolken
USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports answers all the questions from the bizarre Manti Te'o story:
Q. When did Te'o first learn of the hoax?
A. According to Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, Te'o was at the ESPN College Football Awards show on Dec. 6 when he received a phone call from his girlfriend's phone number with what he recognized as her voice, claiming she was not dead. At that point, he knew something was wrong and informed his parents during a trip home to Hawaii between the Heisman Trophy ceremony and Notre Dame's bowl practices.
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Q. When did Notre Dame first learn of the hoax?
A. On Dec. 26, Te'o informed head coach Brian Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco about the phone call. The following two days, he met with Swarbrick to review the details of his relationship with the woman. At that point, Notre Dame hired an independent investigative firm to research the situation. The report was delivered to Notre Dame on Jan. 4, just three days before the national championship game.
Q. Who is Lennay Kekua?
A. Apparently she is the alias of one or more people who Swarbrick says duped Te'o. Deadspin began its investigation into Kekua by looking for a death certificate and came up with nothing. Stanford's registrar did not have records of Kekua as a student. Other online background checks found no evidence that a person named Lennay Kekua even exists. There was also no public obituary or funeral notice in newspapers. So, in essence, it seems she was a figment of somebody's imagination.
Q. What is catfishing?
A. In short, catfishing -- a term cited by Swarbrick in his explanation of the events -- is the process of developing a fake online persona with the express purpose of deceiving a love-struck significant other. (To what end, especially with Te'o, remains unclear.) In Te'o's case, the people behind Lennay Kekua were participating in "catfishing."
MORE:Why did Notre Dame AD reference 'catfishing?'
Q. What has Te'o and his family said about meeting Kekua?
A. Te'o claimed he met Kekua after Notre Dame played at Stanford in 2009 and had even recalled touching her hand as they saw each other for the first time. He made numerous other references in interviews to meeting her in person, which turned out to be false. Te'o's father, Brian, also told the South Bend Tribune in October that Kekua had traveled to Hawaii and "(Manti) would meet with her there."
Q. Did they ever meet?
A. No. Te'o's statement acknowledges the relationship was strictly online and on the phone. Swarbrick said Te'o admitted he and Kekua had arranged multiple meetings for which she never showed up. Why Te'o continued pursuing the relationship at that point remains unclear. Swarbrick said he would let Te'o explain why he misled media members and others about the nature of their relationship.
Q. Was Te'o involved in the hoax?
A. Statements by Te'o and Notre Dame strongly state that he is the victim. Deadspin's reporting connects the profile photo on Kekua's Twitter account to an unnamed woman, who claims the picture came from her former classmate Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who is known to be friends with Te'o. Multiple people told Deadspin that Tuiasosopo, a 22-year old cousin of former Oakland Raiders quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, had created Kekua and used that person to lure others into online relationships. The twist is that Te'o and Ronaiah Tuiasosopo are known to be friends and have interacted publicly on social media. Deadspin uncovered a since-deleted Tweet from Tuiasosopo about spending time with Te'o in November before Notre Dame's game at USC.
Q. How did this come to light?
A. Deadspin reported the news of the hoax Wednesday. Swarbrick said Notre Dame knew the story was going to come out and the Te'o family planned to release it themselves next week.
Q. Did Notre Dame contact law enforcement or the NCAA?
A. No. Swarbrick said there was no "factual predicate" for an NCAA violation, and that the school did not refer the issue to criminal authorities.
Q. What does the NCAA have to say?
A. Asked about the Te'o situation from a student-athlete safety and welfare perspective, an NCAA spokesperson said the organization would have no comment on the situation.
Q. What does Te'o have to say?
A. Te'o, who is preparing for the NFL draft, admits he should have been more cautious in engaging with someone online, and said the realization he had been duped is "painful and humilating", especially given the real grief he experienced over her supposed death.