Manti Te'o, Notre Dame linebacker, photo courtesy US Presswire
By Jack Carey
USA TODAY Sports
Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick maintained at a news conference Wednesday night that All-American linebacker Manti Te'o was the victim of an elaborate hoax that led him to believe a young woman he had identified as his girlfriend "Lennay Kekua" had died of leukemia in September.
The school hired an investigative firm to look into the issue after Te'o told his coaches Dec. 26 that he had received a telephone call at a postseason awards show in Orlando telling him the girl was not dead.
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The school did not comment on the alleged hoax until Wednesday after Deadspin.com broke the story. Swarbrick said Te'o had merely an on-line and telephone relationship with the person he thought was Kekua, and had no in-person contact.
"Much of what drove the decisions (the school made) relate in part to a fundamental view of the importance of student privacy," Swarbrick said." At the end of the day, this is Manti's story to tell, and he will tell it.
"While we still don't know all the dimensions of this, there are certain things I feel confident we do know. This was a very elaborate, sophisticated hoax perpetrated for reasons we can't fully understand. But it had a cruelty at its core. Manti was the victim of that hoax and will carry that for a while
Swarbrick said Te'o was a perfect target for the hoax because of the kind of person he is.
"He was not a person who had a second thought in offering his assistance," Swarbrick said. "Nothing about what I learned has shaken my faith in Manti Te'o one iota."
CRAZY ELEMENTS: Excerpts from the story
When asked for a reaction from the student-athlete welfare and safety perspective, spokeswoman Emily Potter said the NCAA would have no comment on the Te'o situation.
Swarbrick said he expects Te'o to give his side, perhaps Thursday. Swarbrick also said the school called in an outside investigative group to look into the hoax.
"The people who are probably going to be the least skeptical are those who live their lives on social media," said Swarbrick. "I think skepticism increases with age."
Swarbrick added "there is a lot of sorrow, a lot of tragedy here," before pausing to compose himself.
"The single-most trusting human being I've ever met will never be able to trust in the same way again. That's an incredible tragedy.