Te'o talked about fake girlfriend after hoax was revealed

Internet

Te'o talked about fake girlfriend after hoax was revealed

Posted: Updated:
AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File). FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2012, file photo, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o waits for the snap during the second half of their NCAA college football game against Boston College in Boston. AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File). FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2012, file photo, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o waits for the snap during the second half of their NCAA college football game against Boston College in Boston.
(AP Photo/Joe Raymond). In this Nov. 17, 2012, photo, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o sings the alma mater following their NCAA college football game against Stanford in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond). In this Nov. 17, 2012, photo, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o sings the alma mater following their NCAA college football game against Stanford in South Bend, Ind.
(AP Photo/Joe Raymond). Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick speaks to reporters during an NCAA college football news conference regarding a hoax involving linebacker Manti Te'o on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond). Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick speaks to reporters during an NCAA college football news conference regarding a hoax involving linebacker Manti Te'o on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in South Bend, Ind.
(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File). FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2012, file photo, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o stands on the sidelines during an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File). FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2012, file photo, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o stands on the sidelines during an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla.

By TOM COYNE
Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Not once but twice after he supposedly discovered his online girlfriend of three years never even existed, Notre Dame All-American linebacker Manti Te'o perpetuated the heartbreaking story about her death.

An Associated Press review of news coverage found that the Heisman Trophy runner-up talked about his doomed love in a Web interview on Dec. 8 and again in a newspaper interview published Dec. 11. He and the university said Wednesday that he learned on Dec. 6 that it was all a hoax, that not only wasn't she dead, she wasn't real.

On Thursday, a day after Te'o's inspiring, playing-through-heartache story was exposed as a bizarre lie, Te'o and Notre Dame faced questions from sports writers and fans 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.

Yahoo sports columnist Dan Wetzel said the case has "left everyone wondering whether this was really the case of a naïve 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 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 college football's biggest feel-good story 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 Thursday: 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 Thursday 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 Los Angeles Times, 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."

Reporters were turned away at the main gate of IMG's sprawling, secure complex. Te'o remained on the grounds, said a person familiar with situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because neither Te'o nor IMG authorized the release of the information.

"This whole thing is so nutsy that I believe it only could have happened at Notre Dame, where mythology trumps common sense on a daily basis. ... Given the choice between reality and fiction, Notre Dame always will choose fiction," sports writer Rick Telander said in the Chicago Sun-Times.

"Which brings me to what I believe is the real reason Te'o and apparently his father, at least went along with this scheme: the Heisman Trophy.

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass blasted both Te'o and Notre Dame.

"When your girlfriend dying of leukemia after suffering a car crash tells you she loves you, even if it might help you win the Heisman Trophy, you check it out," he said.

He said the university's failure to call a news conference and go public sooner means "Notre Dame is complicit in the lie."

"The school fell in love with the Te'o girlfriend myth," he wrote.

___

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

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Email Alert Sign Up

    Sign up here to receive breaking news stories from KSWT.com and morning updates to your email inbox.

    * denotes required fields


    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.

KSWT-TV Affiliates

Go to KSWT-TV's Facebook page
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Yuma Shooting Victim Identified; Vigil Held

    Yuma Shooting Victim Identified; Vigil Held

    YUMA - Friends and family gathered outside Jimmie Dee's bar Sunday night to say goodbye to Frank Salazar, Jr. Yuma police are confirming the identification of the 28-year-old shooting victim, who diedMore >>
    YUMA - Friends and family gathered outside Jimmie Dee's bar Sunday night to say goodbye to Frank Salazar, Jr. Yuma police are confirming the identification of the 28-year-old shooting victim, who died outside the local bar early Friday morning.More >>
  • Coming soon...Wal-Mart

    Coming soon...Wal-Mart

    On Wednesday the Yuma City Council voted to change the zoning designation on the proposed land acquired by Wal-Mart. The property located near the intersection of Avenue B and 8th Street was the home of a mobile home park as zones for residential use; the new designation changes that to mixed which will allow the new store to move in to the property. The new store will be the fifth Wal-Mart for Yuma County.More >>
    On Wednesday the Yuma City Council voted to change the zoning designation on the proposed land acquired by Wal-Mart. The property located near the intersection of Avenue B and 8th Street was the home of a mobile home park as zones for residential use; the new designation changes that to mixed which will allow the new store to move in to the property. The new store will be the fifth Wal-Mart for Yuma County.More >>
  • Out with the old...

    Out with the old...

    It has been a staple in the Yuma community since the early 70's and the place to meet for the young and old alike. The Southgate Mall now sits on broken asphalt and bares the scares of more than 40 years; decades being passed from owner to owner and now it's set to be torn down to make way for a new more improved shopping center. Today the building has been stripped from within to make way for demolition equipment to tear down the center portion of the mall. Stores like Sear, Burlington and t...More >>
    It has been a staple in the Yuma community since the early 70's and the place to meet for the young and old alike. The Southgate Mall now sits on broken asphalt and bares the scares of more than 40 years; decades being passed from owner to owner and now it's set to be torn down to make way for a new more improved shopping center. Today the building has been stripped from within to make way for demolition equipment to tear down the center portion of the mall. Stores like Sear, Burlington and t...More >>
  • California firm issues nationwide fruit recall

    California firm issues nationwide fruit recall

    A Central California company has issued a voluntary nationwide recall of specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots over concerns of possible listeria contamination.More >>
    A Central California company has issued a voluntary nationwide recall of specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots over concerns of possible listeria contamination.More >>
  • Woman arrested to allegedly smuggling drugs into Calipatria State Prison

    Woman arrested to allegedly smuggling drugs into Calipatria State Prison

    CALIPATRIA, CA - A woman visiting an inmate at a local prison winds up behind bars herself for trying to smuggle in drugs. Calipatria State Prison officials say 25-year-old Veronica Delgado was visitingMore >>
    CALIPATRIA, CA - A woman visiting an inmate at a local prison winds up behind bars herself for trying to smuggle in drugs. Calipatria State Prison officials say 25-year-old Veronica Delgado was visiting an inmate in facility C yesterday, when an officer noticed something in her mouth. More >>
  • National

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Web Producer: Lucy Valencia, Assignment Desk Editor WASHINGTON (AP) -- Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits willMore >>
    Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits will be delayed if congressional Republicans fail to increase the government's borrowing authority in a looming showdown over the nation's debt and spending.More >>
  • Officials: Rebar spikes placed on forest roads

    Officials: Rebar spikes placed on forest roads

    Officials say someone is placing sharpened rebar spikes around Forest Service roads in Arizona.More >>
    Officials say someone is placing sharpened rebar spikes around Forest Service roads in Arizona.More >>
  • Website ranks Yuma # 1 for worst place in the U.S. for singles

    Website ranks Yuma # 1 for worst place in the U.S. for singles

    Yuma, AZ - People having trouble finding a date or significant other could blame the local economy according to one website. More >>