Entries in Notre Dame (3)


Notre Dame Football Star Manti Te'o Says Dead "Girlfriend" Was Hoaxer

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Notre Dame's athletic director and the star of its near-championship football team said the widely-reported death of the star's girlfriend from leukemia during the 2012 football season was apparently a hoax, and the player said he was duped by it as well.

Manti Te'o, who led the Fighting Irish to the BCS championship game this year and finished second for the Heisman Trophy, said in a statement Wednesday that he fell in love with a girl online last year who turned out not to be real.

The university's athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, said it has been investigating the "cruel hoax" since Te'o approached officials in late December to say he believed he had been tricked.


Private investigators hired by the university subsequently monitored online chatter by the alleged perpetrators, Swarbrick said, adding that he was shocked by the "casual cruelty" it revealed.

"They enjoyed the joke," Swarbrick said, comparing the ruse to the popular film "Catfish," in which filmmakers revealed a person at the other end of an online relationship was not who they said they were.

"While we still don't know all of the dimensions of this ... there are certain things that I feel confident we do know," Swarbrick said. "The first is that this was a very elaborate, very sophisticated hoax, perpetrated for reasons we don't understand."

Te'o said during the season that his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died of leukemia in September on the same day Te'o's grandmother died, triggering an outpouring of support for Te'o at Notre Dame and in the media.

"While my grandma passed away and you take, you know, the love of my life [Kekua]. The last thing she said to me was, 'I love you,'" Te'o said at the time, noting that he had talked to Kekua on the phone and by text message until her death.

Now, responding to a story first reported by the sports website Deadspin, Te'o has acknowledged that Kekua never existed. The website reported Wednesday that there were no records of a woman named Lennay Kekua anywhere.

Te'o denied that he was in on the hoax.

"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," Te'o said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. "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."

Swarbrick said he expected Te'o to give his version of events at a public event soon, perhaps Thursday, and that he believed Te'o's representatives were planning to disclose the truth next week until Wednesday's story broke.

Deadspin reported that the image attached to Kekua's social media profiles, through which the pair interacted, was of another woman who has said she did not even know Te'o or know that her picture was being used. The website reported that it traced the profiles to a California man who is an acquaintance of Te'o and of the woman whose photo was stolen.

"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating," Te'o said.

According to Notre Dame, Te'o and his family came forward to the university with concerns that Te'o had been the victim of a hoax in December 2012.

"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," the university said in a statement released Wednesday.

"The university immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax," it said. "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."

Though the university's statement may have implied that it referred the matter to outside authorities, Swarbrick later said that the university had only hired a private investigator and not notified the NCAA or law enforcement.

"There's no factual predicate for an NCAA violation that we could find," he said.

"And no, we did not refer this to criminal authorities," he added. "We believe it's the victim's decision to make."

Te'o is currently preparing for the NFL draft, according to his statement.

"There's a lot of tragedy here, there's a lot of sorrow here," Swarbrick said.

"But the thing I am most sad of is--" he added, pausing to apologize and wipe away tears, is "that the single most trusting human being I have ever met will never be able to trust in the same way ever again."


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Notre Dame Scandal: Seeberg Family Speaks

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The parents of the college freshmen who committed suicide after claiming she'd been assaulted by a Notre Dame football player feel betrayed by the university that's been attended by generations of their family members.

"This isn't a matter of someone stealing a laptop or a beer bust, this is a very serious allegation," said Tom Seeberg, father of Lizzy Seeberg. "This started in September, there were still leaves on trees and here we are with snowstorms and as I say, here we are."

Lizzy, a 19-year-old student at Notre Dame's sister school, St. Mary's College, took her life Sept. 10, days after she reported to university police that she'd been improperly touched by a football player on the night of August 31.

Lizzy had battled anxiety and depression.

In a statement to university police made Sept. 6, she said, "I didn't feel safe in his room...he proceeded to grab my face and started to kiss me. Tears started rolling down my face because I didn't know what to do...I felt so scared, I couldn't move."

It took police 15 days to interview the football player, who has not been named.

The University of Notre Dame defends its investigation, saying that, "We have great sympathy for a grieving family that may believe our investigation was insufficient, but we also respectfully and wholeheartedly disagree with that contention."

Prosecutors decided not to file criminal charges, citing inconsistencies in witness accounts and cell phone records and partly because Lizzy Seeberg was not alive to testify.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio´╗┐


Notre Dame Student Dies Filming Practice; Tweets Just Before Death

Photo Courtesy - WLS-TV(SOUTH BEND, Ind.) -- A 20-year-old junior from the University of Notre Dame died on Wednesday after a tower he was filming atop of was knocked over by strong winds brought on by a Midwestern storm.

Declan Sullivan was perched on the tower recording a football practice, when wind gusts of up to 51 miles per hour swept through the field, toppling the tower.  The junior from Long Grove, Illinois was transported to a South Bend hospital, but died shortly thereafter.

Notre Dame had previously moved practice indoors on Tuesday due to similar weather conditions.

The school's head coach, Brian Kelly, released a written statement saying, "Declan was a diligent student worker in our video department and had a tremendous personality and great sense of humor.  He brightened the days for all that had the privilege to work with him, and the Notre Dame football family will dearly miss him."

Shortly before his death, Sullivan took to his Twitter account, posting several eerie tweets on the site.  The first read: "Gusts of wind up to 60 mph. Well today will be fun at work. I guess I've lived long enough."  The second, posted less than an hour before the accident, read: "This is terrifying."

Notre Dame is planning a mass for Sullivan and has made counseling available for those who may need it on campus.´╗┐

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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