Notre Dame calls that an investigation?

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Manti Te’o will tell the truth about his lies to Katie Couric.

No, wait, Te’o will lie some more about the truth in his fake dead girlfriend story.

It’s so hard to keep track because Te’o has lied and he’s skilled at it. Good luck to Couric in her cross-examination.

Te’o lied about a dead girlfriend -- the love of his life, he said -- after being told she was a fake. He was so convincing in his grief that he won more awards than any college football player ever and likely rode the backstory along with a 12-0 football team to second in the Heisman Trophy voting. A guy could get used to a fake dead girlfriend.

When given the chance to tell the truth publicly, he dodged ESPN's cameras and avoided a skilled, persistent interviewer while having his lawyer sit next to him, presumably to filter the questions and vet the answers.

The photos that came out of the Friday night sit-down felt like Sammy Sosa forgetting how to speak English on Capitol Hill. ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap wasn’t the head of a Congressional committee, but apparently Te’o needed someone to protect him from the truth.

I mean, if he was going to tell the truth and there were no laws broken and no crime committed, then why do you need a lawyer? Why do you need to avoid the camera?

But given the times Te’o has lied in the course of this episode --- and given the approval from Notre Dame to continue the deceit --- he might not know what his truth is or how to keep it straight. Truth isn’t fluid the way Notre Dame’s values are. The truth is a solid core value, like the Irish placing football over everything.

I got some nasty emails for a Friday blog ripping athletic director Jack Swarbrick for his clown act a couple days earlier. I get it: Notre Dame people have been taught to believe the fairy tale.

Swarbrick called it a “tragedy’’ that the trusting Te’o won’t be able to trust so unconditionally again. Quick, someone tell the laughable AD that Te’o getting punk’d is not a tragedy, it’s a life lesson. An important life lesson. Skepticism is healthy. In fact, it’s the kind of reality check that will keep a fella from falling so deeply in love with a woman he never met.

And quick, someone tell the laughable AD that a tragedy is his football program’s negligence in causing the death of a 20-year-old videographer on a scissors lift amid vicious winds that the same laughable AD called “unremarkable.’’

And quick, someone tell the laughable AD that a “tragedy’’ is Lizzy Seeburg’s suicide after Notre Dame ignored her charges of being assaulted by an Irish football player. In 2010, Seeburg, a student at St. Mary’s College in South Bend, wrote down a description of what happened and gave it to campus police, who promptly did nothing with it, and by nothing I mean campus police didn’t even contact the player.

A little more than a week after registering her complaint, Seeburg committed suicide. Nothing about the story was known and nothing was done for another 2 1/2 months until the Tribune broke the story.

One thing that did become known was that Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins refused to meet with Seeburg’s family. If only Jenkins had a background in a faith that valued compassion.

But this looks like a business decision, same as deciding that a football game could yield more money long-term than fessing up.

And now we find out why Notre Dame doesn’t waste a lot of time on investigations: It isn’t very good at it.

If you’re looking for truths in “Operation Girlfraud,’’ here’s one that is growing stronger: The more we learn about Notre Dame’s part in this process, the bigger the joke the university becomes.

The South Bend Tribune detailed Notre Dame’s idea of an investigation: It hired an outside firm to start Jan. 2 and ended the quest Jan. 4. No lie. Te’o told his story to Irish officials on Dec. 26. Irish officials decided to launch an investigation on Dec. 29. The university hired an investigation firm on Jan. 2 and considered all the work done by Jan. 4. Whew, huh? Need a vacation after something so exhaustive, don’t you?

In lieu of an investigation that looks like an investigation, Notre Dame was just fine with limiting it to an electronic search of databases to prove or disprove the existence of Te’o’s fake girlfriend and verify the address Te’o had for her. The investigation turned up no such “Lennay Kukua,’’ but did determine that the address in Carson, Calif., belonged to a Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who claimed to be the mastermind of the prank.

And like that, Notre Dame officials believed Te’o’s story. That’s it. All done. There was no examination of cell phone records, emails or other electronic communications to determine the length and extent of Te’o’s communication and involvement with the fake girlfriend, the South Bend Tribune wrote.

University officials were concerned that the hoax might involve NCAA violations, extortion, gambling or some effort to influence the outcome of the national championship game, a university mouthpiece told the South Bend Tribune. The mouthpiece, Dennis Brown, said the investigation revealed no such motives.

A two-day investigation revealed no such motives. Yeah, if you can’t find out everything in two days, then it’s probably not worth finding out, especially when you made sure not to interview Te’o, his family or anyone in the Tuiasosopo family.

Notre Dame’s investigation company has no timeline. The investigation company had no time to research and investigate a timeline that pulls together -- or tears apart -- Te’o’s veracity. Notre Dame’s investigation company didn’t interview witnesses who, indeed, might’ve had a scam that broke NCAA rules, not to mention laws of the land.

Notre Dame didn’t know enough to know whether it should stand behind Te’o and his sorry story. But it did anyway.

It’s as if Notre Dame didn’t want to know the truth. It’s as if Notre Dame wanted to limit what truth it could know, either because a big football game was coming up or because, well, the truth is what Notre Dame says it is.

This is a story that seems to change every hour, and likely will continue to spit out new details that might taint the school further or might indict Te’o or who knows what. But yet, Notre Dame decided it was good with two days of looking.

Quick, someone tell Swarbrick that Notre Dame’s history of hasty, incomplete investigations that the school uses as a foundation for it sanctimonious hucksterism also is a tragedy.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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