The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

January 17, 2013

Story of Te'o girlfriend death apparently a hoax

(Continued)

Word of the hoax spread quickly and raised questions about whether the school somehow played a role in pushing the tale. Te'o's grandmother died during the season and the apparent double tragedy became fueled stories about Te'o's perseverance and leadership.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said at a news conference Wednesday night that Te'o told coaches on Dec. 26 he had received a call from Kekua's phone number while at an awards ceremony during the first week of December.

"When he answered it, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same person he had talked to, who told him that she was, in fact, not dead. Manti was very unnerved by that, as you might imagine," Swarbrick said.

Swarbrick said the school hired investigators and their report indicated those behind the hoax were in contact with each other, discussing what they were doing.

The investigators "were able to discover online chatter among the perpetrators that was certainly the ultimate proof of this, the joy they were taking," Swarbrick said. "The casualness among themselves they were talking about what they accomplished."

Swarbrick said for Te'o "the pain was real."

"The grief was real. The affection was real," he said. "That's the nature of this sad, cruel game."

Swarbrick said Notre Dame did not take the matter to the police, saying that the school left it up to Te'o and his family to do so. He added that Notre Dame did not plan to release the findings of its investigation.

"We had no idea of motive, and that was really significant to us. ... Was somebody trying to create an NCAA violation at the core of this? Was there somebody trying to impact the outcome of football games by manipulating the emotions of a key player? Was there an extortion request coming? When you match the lack of sort of detail we lacked until we got some help investigating it with the risk involved, it was clear to me until we knew more we had to just to continue to work to try to gather the facts," Swarbrick said.

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