Manti Te'o, 21-year-old University of Notre Dame Mormon linebacker that recently helped his Catholic school get to the BCS championship game, has been the subject of controversy that have some of his fellow students and the media questioning if he was involved in a hoax about his dead girlfriend.
While the media was alerted that Te'o's grandmother and girlfriend, Lennay Kekau, died within hours of one another last September without the linebacker missing a game at the alleged request of his deceased girlfriend. Notre Dame fans rallied behind Te'o who managed to finish second in the 2012 Heisman Trophy voting and pull out one of his best performances with 12 tackles and 20-3 defeat when the Fighting Irish played Michigan State on Sept. 15 after the alleged death of his girlfriend.
However, Deadspin.com reported that Te'o's tragedy was nothing more than a hoax on Wednesday which prompted the University of Notre Dame and its star linebacker to speak up about the matter. When Deadspin reported that there was no Social Security Administration records to account for the death of Kekua or evidence of her existence after conducting a background check, Te'o admitted that he had been the victim of a hoax.
"I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online," the linebacker said in a statement on ESPN.com. "We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is painful and humiliating.."
However, some people like ESPN journalist and commentator Stephen A. Smith questioned if Te'o himself was involved in the hoax. Smith referred to certain details that the linebacker released about him previously sending white roses to Kekau's funeral and commenting on what type of arrangements were included in the ceremony.
"You talk about a casket that's closed at 9 a.m. How do you know that a casket was closed at 9 a.m. if you were not there? You talk about sending white roses...there was no receipt," Smith said in reference to the linebacker's claims while speaking on ESPN Thursday morning. "I'm not saying he's lying. I'm not calling any names but we live in a society where we're allowed to say one plus one equals two and that's what I'm saying."
Students on the Notre Dame campus did not all seem convinced that Te'o was being completely honest of his account about his love interest who died of leukemia after suffering a bad car accident last year. In a Collegespun.com Op-Ed piece written by Notre Dame campus representative Tyler Moorehead, questions arise about the linebacker.
"While I believe Manti Te'o to have an incredibly good heart and to have gotten duped, I will also be quick to point out that he oversold all of this drama in the first place. It was heinous of him to play up a relationship as the love of his life for a girl he had never actually met -- I think most people can agree that is ridiculous," Moorehead wrote. "And I think Notre Dame had to have some knowledge of the the whole case being significantly embellished but was on board because of the positive press and hype it brought to the university."
Moorehead suggested that Notre Dame was probably aware of the truth but did not think that it would emerge publicly.
"Could it have been a massive oversight and university officials just took Manti at his word that it was his girlfriend? Absolutely, but I like to think my school's athletic department is a little smarter than that - it has shown itself to be quite media savvy in the past," Moorehead wrote. "The writer went I think that Te'o, his family, and Notre Dame all knew what was going on in terms of hyperbole (but not the entire non-existence) and decided to go with it, never expecting the truth to come out."
However, Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick stood by Te'o in a statement to the media saying that he did not believe the linebacker was involved in the ordeal.
"We probed, asked questions, wanted to make sure it all lined up with what we knew independently. The facts as we understood them were very comfortable with the consistencies in how it all fit together," Swarbrick told the press. "Our investigators, through their work were able to discover online chatter among the perpetrators that were sort of the proof of this. I want to stress as someone who has probably been as engaged in this as anyone in the past couple weeks that nothing about what I have learned has shaken my faith in Manti Te'o one iota."