Wednesday night, the University of Notre Dame’s athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, gave a press conference regarding Deadspin’s made-up-dead-girlfriend-hoax story surrounding star linebacker, Heisman Trophy candidate, and ND student Manti Te’o. Here are the essential elements of the bizarre press conference (all quotes are Jack Swarbrick unless specified otherwise):
— The situation was “a very elaborate, very sophisticated hoax perpetrated for reasons we can’t fully understand but had a certain cruelty at its core.”
— Te’o was the “perfect mark” for the hoax “because he is a guy so willing to believe in others and so willing to help.”
— Swarbrick still has complete faith in Te’o, and the University stands by his story 100%.
— “On the morning of Dec. 26, very early morning, Manti called his coaches to inform them that, while he was in attendance at the ESPN awards show in Orlando, he received a phone call from a number he recognized as having been that he associated with Lennay Kekua. When he answered it, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same voice he had talked to, who told him that she was, in fact, not dead.”
— An independent investigation firm representing Te’o conducted its own look into the proceedings and was scheduled to release its findings next week.
— Swarbrick likened it to Catfish, both the film and the MTV show, and said the hoax followed the same arc as those hoaxes did.
— Investigators found online chatter showing what Swarbrick called the “perpetrators taking joy” in the hoax.
— Swarbrick said, and reaffirmed multiple times, that Te’o had told him he had never met Lennay Kekua in person, and that their relationship began when Kekua reached out to Te’o online and continue exclusively online and by phone.
— Kekua set up meetings with Te’o, then never showed.
— There are multiple individuals portraying an even greater number of imaginary characters hoaxing Te’o, and that until he received the call on Dec. 26, Te’o had believed everything to be real.
— “What’s real or what’s not is a more complex question than I can get into,” which is an existential question that you don’t hear too often at sports pressers.
— Swarbrick never mentioned the individual Deadspin identified as the creator of the hoax, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, and also claimed that the perpetrators of the hoax were not friends of Teo’s, as Deadspin suggested Tuiasosopo was.
— Head coach Brian Kelly, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, Swarbrick, and possibly a few other players were the only Notre Dame athletics personnel who knew about the hoax between Dec. 26 and now.
— Swarbrick was brought to tears over the course of the presser.
Here’s the full text of Swarbrick’s press conference. Obviously, this is just Notre Dame and Te’o’s story at this point — there’s no reason to believe it has any more validity than that of Deadspin’s. Swarbrick said he believes that Te’o will hold his own press conference tomorrow to elaborate.
And of course, this isn’t the only weird additional wrinkle to come out tonight. A fullback on the Arizona Cardinals named Reagan Mauia claims that he knew Lennay Kekua, who almost everyone agrees at this point does not exist. According to ESPN, “When told by a reporter that she apparently might not have existed, Mauia said: ‘No, she is real.’”
Stay tuned, folks.