NOTRE DAME DIRECTOR Jack Swarbrick held a press conference last night where he talked about the Deadspin report that star football player Manti Te’o's dead girlfriend was a hoax.
He threw 100% of his and the school’s weight behind Te’o, saying he was the victim of a “cruel hoax,” and was not a part of it.
He also gave us new details about how Te’o says he uncovered the hoax.
Swarbrick says that Te’o received a call on the day of the ESPN College Football Awards — December 6th — from the phone number that he believed to be Lennay Kekua’s, his deceased girlfriend. The voice on the phone was the voice Te’o thought was Kekua’s from prior phone conversations. She told Te’o she was still alive, and tried to “restart” the relationship, according to Swarbrick.
She contacted Te’o several times after that, but Te’o told his coaches on December 26th that he thought he was the target of a hoax. An independent investigation was launched, and on January 4th the firm that investigated the situation concluded it was an elaborate hoax, according to Swarbrick.
Swarbrick also said that Te’o never met Kekua in person. It was an exclusively online relationship. Several meetings were planned, but Kekua “never showed,” Swarbrick said. He cited the movie “Catfish” — which tells the story of people who dupe strangers into fake relationships online — as a reference for what happened to Te’o.
That does not jive with this October 2012 story from the South Bend Tribune, where Te’o's father Brian said:
They started out as just friends. 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.”
It could be that Te’o and his father were lying to protect themselves from the embarrassment that Manti was in an exclusively-online relationship. But there is a clear inconsistency.
Swarbrick said it was “a group of people” who were involved in a “sophisticated hoax” to trick Te’o. Deadspin’s report implied that one person — a college kid who Te’o knew — was behind creating the fake Kekua identity. Swarbrick said that detail, “does not square with [his] information.”
Although the Deadspin story never directly said Te’o was in on the hoax, it strongly implied that he was, and quoted a source who said there was an 80% chance Te’o knew about it.
Still, it appears that Notre Dame is putting its full faith in Te’o's word, for better or worse.
Swarbrick said Te’o will tell his story sometime in the next week or so. Interesting, the school never went to the police, and they will not release the contents of the independent investigation that confirmed the whole thing was a hoax.