Notre Dame football player Manti Te'o claims he is the victim of a cruel hoax after Deadspin ran a story proving the cancer victim Te'o spoke openly of dating when she died this season never existed.
If Te'o is to be believed, this means he communicated via telephone and Twitter for a year or more with a false Internet persona created by a male family friend. Either that, or he participated in an elaborate lie that fooled the likes of CBS, ESP, AP and the New York Times for an entire football season.
The heartbreaking tale of Te'o's long-distance relationship with "former Stanford student Lennay Kekua" had been the inspirational story of the college football season. Kekua was supposedly recovering from a car accident when she was diagnosed with leukemia. She allegedly died right after Te'o's grandmother died on Sept. 11. In his next game Te'o had 12 tackles in leading Notre Dame to a 20-3 upset against Michigan State.
Notre Dame's athletic director said Te'o informed informed his coaches at Notre Dame of the hoax on Dec. 26 while he was at an ESPN awards show. That show was actually on Dec. 6. Two days later at the Heisman Trophy presentation, Te'o talked about Kekua with the media. Deadspin broke the story on Jan. 16. Both Te'o and Notre Dame maintain that Te'o was the victim, and not involved in the hoax.