BY BOB HOLT
According to reports from last fall, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o lost his grandmother and girlfriend in the space of six hours. The linebacker, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, received a ton of support for his play as he helped the Irish complete an undefeated season before getting hammered by Alabama in the national championship game.
Stories stated that Te'o's grandmother Annette Santiago died in September and Te'o's girlfriend, involved in a serious car crash, died of leukemia.
But there are no records that Te'o's 22-year-old girlfriend Lennay Marie Kekua ever existed.
CNN reported that website Deadspin, who broke the story, called funeral homes in California - where Kekua was said to be buried - and found nothing. According to Deadspin, the photos of the person believed to be Kekua were of another 22-year-old Californian woman who had never met Te'o.
Te'o's is claiming that the story was a hoax and he was a victim. Notre Dame is supporting his position.
“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 immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax,” reported a statement released by Notre Dame, according to SI.com
Te’o said, “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.”
But Timothy Burke of Deadspin said there are still conflicting reports.
"Notre Dame and Te'o's statement have indicated that he found out about it in late December, but he chose not to correct or identify when he was asked before the BCS Championship game about his girlfriend," Burke said. The championship took place Jan. 7.
The Chicago Tribune reported that according to Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, Te'o was contacted by the people who were portraying themselves as Kekua on Dec. 6.