Story of Te'o girlfriend hoax may never come to definitive end

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Story of Te'o girlfriend hoax may never come to definitive end

Updated: Jan. 20, 10:40 a.m.

It's been three days since Deadspin first reported Manti Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, was nothing more than the product of an elaborate hoax. Since then, we've heard from Notre Dame, those close to Te'o, those close to Ronaiah Tuiasosopo -- the man behind Kekua's persona -- and, late Friday night, Te'o himself.

There's much more information on the table than there was Wednesday. But there's still a large gray area inside this story, and it likely won't go away.

Te'o's interview with Jeremy Schapp Friday answered a few questions. It brought to light more aspects of the saga that require an explanation -- for example, why did the direct messages that purportedly show Tuiasosopo confessing to Te'o about the hoax initially show a message that's 217 characters long (Twitter's limit is 140 characters)? ESPN has since updated the image file to show messages that fit Twitter's limit.

Furthermore, why didn't the private firm Notre Dame hired extensively interview Te'o as part of its investigation? Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio provides reasoning why the investigation wouldn't talk to the perpetrators of the Kekua hoax, but that doesn't explain why Te'o wasn't directly part of the inquiry.

But enough with the questions, since chances are, they won't be answered. Schapp said Friday it appeared as if Te'o had unburdened himself with the interview, and there's probably a decent chance he won't speak on the matter again.

Related: Te'o breaks silence, but only raises more questions

Te'o may be bombarded by questions about it at the NFL combine, or after he's hitched with a pro team in late April. But he could easily say he doesn't want to discuss the topic, and no amount of prying could get anymore information out of him if he's personally moved on from the Kekua hoax.

But he'll have to field plenty of questions in private as NFL teams vet him as a potential draft pick. Te'o hardly is done with the questioning, but he may be done with it in the public eye.

Notre Dame, too, won't speak on the matter anymore. Brian Kelly may be asked about it at his next press conference -- which, right now, looks like Feb. 6 for national signing day -- and perhaps defensive coordinator Bob Diaco will field a question or two down the road as well.

It doesn't sound as if Tuiasosopo will discuss it anytime soon, either. Perhaps hearing from the person who pretended to be Kekua would advance the story, but that person hasn't come forward yet.

Most of those secondhand accounts, save the friend of Tuiasosopo's cited by Deadspin as being "80 percent" sure Te'o was in on the hoax, have come out in support of the Notre Dame linebacker. Plenty of friends and teammates have told various media outlets Te'o was duped and had no hand in the hoax, and a friend of Tuiasosopo's told ESPN.com Te'o wasn't involved as well.

In fact, right as this article was published, ESPN.com ran a story showing a Facebook correspondence Te'o had with a friend showing the linebacker thought Kekua may be a "prank" in 2010.

Related: Samardzija, Te'o: The spotlight comes with the territory

When the Deadspin story broke Wednesday, the biggest question regarded how much Te'o knew. There's now enough evidence in Te'o's favor that would indicate he indeed was duped, although it's impossible to say that with 100 percent certainty. It's logical to believe Te'o wasn't involved, but it's also not completely illogical to continue searching for evidence that he was in on it.

A definitive ending to this story would certainly be satisfying. Cliffhangers, inevitably, keep us coming back for more, and gray areas foster speculation.

Alabama left no doubt they were the best team in college football on Jan. 7. This story won't have an ending as convincing as a 42-14 final score.

For such a bizarre, fascinating tale that managed to wrestle away the national spotlight for a few days, that's not the endgame we're looking for. But it's the one we'll likely get.

Wide receiver Corey Holmes will transfer from Notre Dame

Wide receiver Corey Holmes will transfer from Notre Dame

Redshirt sophomore receiver Corey Holmes will transfer from Notre Dame after graduating in the spring, joining offensive lineman John Montelus and quarterback Malik Zaire in leaving South Bend after earning their degrees.

Holmes, a former four-star recruit from Pembroke Pines, Fla., was the fifth-most targeted wide receiver on Notre Dame in 2016 (21 targets) and caught 11 passes for 96 yards. Holmes played in two games as a true freshman in 2014 but redshirted in 2015.

[SHOP: Get your Notre Dame gear]

Holmes posted this message to Twitter Saturday afternoon:

Holmes had offered from a number of top programs coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in South Florida, including Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, Stanford and Wisconsin. 

Jack Swarbrick shoots down Brian Kelly rumors, says things are 'business as usual' at Notre Dame

Jack Swarbrick shoots down Brian Kelly rumors, says things are 'business as usual' at Notre Dame

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick shot down any and all rumors about Brian Kelly being fired or leaving South Bend for another job on his radio show with Jack Nolan this week, and said things are operating as usual within the Irish football program. 

"I certainly understand the sort of the engagement and the discussion of the program, but it’s been very much business as usual," Swarbrick said. 

Swarbrick, who in an October comment to ESPN gave a vote of confidence to Kelly, said while he was disappointed with Notre Dame's 4-8 season, he evaluated the seventh-year Irish coach from a larger viewpoint. That viewpoint included 2015's 10-3 season, which Swarbrick said was a "remarkable" coaching job by Kelly after Notre Dame lost an unprecedented number of key players to season-ending injuries. 

"It was an extremely disappointing year,” Swarbrick said. “Every player, every coach, myself, other administrators involved in the program, we all share the same view. There's no way around that conclusion. It's not bad breaks, it's not a play here or a play there, we didn't do what we need to do. 

"But I think there’s a danger in overreacting to any one piece of information that you get in the course of evaluating football programs. That begins with — it looks one way from a this season perspective, but it feels a little different for me from a two-season perspective. I thought last year was one of the best coaching jobs I’ve seen, and I’ve been around elite-level coaches for 35 years. I think to achieve what we achieve with the things we faced with the attrition of our roster, which was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, was a really remarkable year as reflected in the contributions that the players and coaches made to collectively achieve that year.

"This year we get a different result. You don’t ignore it, you certainly evaluate it and pay attention to it, but I don’t look at it in isolation. I look at it in the context of where the program is overall."

Swarbrick made clear that Notre Dame's academic violations brought to light by the NCAA's Nov. 22 report are not a factor in reviewing Kelly's status, pointing to there being no evidence of a lack of institutional control or a coach or academic advisor spurring the cheating that took place a few years ago. Swarbrick's vote of confidence to Kelly came four weeks to the date of the NCAA committee on infractions' hearing with Notre Dame, at which Swarbrick and Kelly were present. 

"When in mid-season I made that comment I did about Brian’s future, I already had that information," Swarbrick said. "This wasn’t something new coming late into the season I had to factor in." 

Swarbrick said he and Kelly had a discussion the day after Notre Dame's season-ending loss at USC, after which multiple reports surfaced detailing that Kelly had explored other coaching options outside Notre Dame. Kelly said he "absolutely" wanted to be back at Notre Dame immediately after the USC game and put out an early-morning statement a few hours later pushing back on those reports. 

"I fully understood the background of those reports," Swarbrick said. "Brian and I had clear discussions about his intentions and his future, and of course he clarified those I think both at the press conference after the game and then when his subsequent statement went out."

When asked if Notre Dame's board of trustees could still step in and go over his head to fire Kelly, Swarbrick said "No, no. It doesn't work that way here."

So things are operating normally at Notre Dame, according to Swarbrick, even though end-of-the-season meetings are happening a month earlier than they normally do. Swarbrick said he'll meet with Kelly on Friday to discuss the future of Kelly's coaching staff, but doesn't expect massive changes beyond bringing in a new defensive coordinator. Whatever staff changes do come will flow from the new coordinator hire. 

"I think we have a very talented staff of committed coaches and broader staff in the program," Swarbrick said. "So I don’t anticipate wholesale changes."