The Cinderella story of Notre Dame’s college football season ended in defeat in the BCS national championship game. The story that fueled Manti Te’o’s emotional play, the loss of his girlfriend Lennay Kekua, however, ends in a lie, according to a report by Deadspin.com.It’s not clear when Te’o became aware of the hoax, or if he was involved in its perpetuation, but according to Notre Dame spokesman and assistant vice president Dennis Brown, the team’s coaches were informed of the hoax before the team took the field for the BCS title game against Alabama.
“On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia,” Brown said in a statement on Facebook. “The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.”
Te’o issued a statement on Wednesday about the hoax, which was first reported by Deadspin, via ESPN:
“This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. 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.
“It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.
“I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.
“In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.
“Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL draft.”
The story of the death Kekua, who was supposedly a student at Stanford, and that of Te’o’s grandmother, came to light before Notre Dame played Michigan on Sept. 15, when Coach Brian Kelly told reporters that Te’o had learned of their deaths but would not miss the game.
The Fighting Irish defeated Michigan, 20-3, and Te’o’s emotional performance helped garner him consideration for the Heisman Trophy, as did Notre Dame’s undefeated season.
No Social Security Administration record exists in Nexis of the death of a Lennay Kekua, and Stanford does not have a record of Lennay Kekua ever enrolled in the school, according to Deadspin.