Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick held a press conference on Wednesday to address the explosive story from Deadspin that says linebacker Manti Te’o’s deceased girlfriend was a hoax. Deadspin reported a source was 80 percent sure that Te’o was in on the hoax and did so in order to gain publicity. Many details about the story don’t add up, and they seem to point to Te’o being involved in the hoax or, at the very least, lying on numerous occasions about his girlfriend.
The skepticism matters little to Notre Dame’s athletic department, which called the press conference to stand by their star linebacker.
In what will likely be remembered as the moment Notre Dame attached its anchor to the sinking Te’o ship, Swarbrick defended Te’o as an incredibly naive, gullible person who was duped by a group of characters out to get him. Swarbrick tried to uncover the alleged schemers’ motivation, suggesting they wanted to lead Te’o to commit an NCAA violation. Yeah, he went there.
But the most amazing revelation from the press conference came when Swarbrick said Te’o first approached the school about a potential hoax after claiming to have received a phone call from the girlfriend on Dec. 6 after her supposed September death.
“On the morning of December 26, Manti called his coaches to inform them that while he was in attendance at the ESPN awards show in Orlando, he received a phone call from a number he recognized as having been associated with Lennay Kekua. When he answered it, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same voice he had talked to, who told him that she was, in fact, not dead,” Swarbrick explained.
“Manti was very unnerved about that, as you could imagine. But he maintained that secret until he called the coaches on the morning of the 26th.”
Swarbrick says the coaches informed him about the incident, and that he spoke with Te’o about it on Dec. 27 and 28.
“He became startled, shocked. That was absolutely the first sign,” Swarbrick said of Te’o’s reaction. “It goes to my comments about Manti and his character. Every single thing about this until that day in the first week of December was real about this to Manti. There was no suspicion that it wasn’t, no belief that it might not be. The pain was real, the grief was real, the affection was real.”
How do we explain that one? Maybe it was the moment Te’o was finally ready to end the whole act.