Te'o breaks silence, but only leads to more questions

977967.png

Te'o breaks silence, but only leads to more questions

Updated: Saturday, Jan. 19, 1:36 a.m.

Late Friday night, Manti Te'o spoke to the media for the first time since it was learned his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, was the product of an elaborate hoax. What was gleaned from Jeremy Schapp's interview with Te'o, though, only fostered more questions and speculation about the linebacker's relationship with Kekua.

Te'o denied any involvement in the hoax, and said Ronaiah Tuiasosopo -- originally reported by Deadspin.com to be the mastermind behind Kekua -- sent him a message on Twitter confessing to and apologizing for the Kekua hoax. Schapp said Te'o showed him twitter messages from Tuiasosopo after the interview was conducted.

As first pointed out by Deadspin.com, though, there doesn't appear to be anyone Te'o follows who could be Tuiasosopo, which would be necessary for someone to send Te'o a direct message on Twitter. CSNChicago.com looked through the users Te'o followed and came to the same conclusion, although it's not a definitive one.

Te'o said he didn't fully believe Kekua wasn't real until Tuiasosopo admitted the hoax to him, and that was only two days ago.

On Dec. 6, Te'o received a call from the person he thought was Kekua, who told him she was alive and had to fake her death to avoid drug dealers. According to Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, Te'o informed the university of his suspicions he had been hoaxed on Dec. 26, and the private investigative firm hired by the school presented its findings to the Te'o family on Jan. 5.

After Dec. 6, Te'o made mention multiple times about his girlfriend's death. He told Schapp, though, that after receiving the call he went on a "rampage," and finished it by saying: "My Lennay died on Sept. 12."

ESPN initially reported Te'o said a woman who claimed to be Kekua showed up at Notre Dame's hotel in South Florida during the week leading up to the BCS Championship, although that has since been dropped from its story.

Another central question Te'o answered regarded his supposed in-person meetings with Kekua, which he admitted to lying about. He told his father, Brian, he had met Kekua face-to-face, and "catered" his stories so it would be thought he met Kekua before she died.

"I knew that -- I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet," Te'o told ESPN. "And that alone people find out that this girl who died I was so invested in, and I didn't meet her as well."

While Te'o has said Kekua was the "love of his life," he didn't think to try to see her in the hospital after he was told she was in a car crash April 28 -- also, when he said he and Kekua became inseparable. His explanation: "It never really crossed my mind. I don't know. I was in school."

Earlier in the week, ESPN reported via an anonymous teammate that some members of the Notre Dame football team didn't think Kekua was really Te'o's girlfriend, and that he perpetuated the idea he was serious with Kekua out of a love for attention.

Te'o did say he attempted to video chat with Kekua, but said he never saw the person because of a "black box" on the opposite end of the chat.

Te'o also told ESPN he and Kekua got into an argument the day his grandmother passed away -- "I didn't want to be bothered," Te'o said -- and then later that day, he received a phone call saying Kekua had died of leukemia.

From what Te'o said, it doesn't sound as if he or the family will pursue legal action. When asked about Tuiasosopo, Te'o told ESPN:

"I hope he learns. I hope he understands what he's done. I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough."

The linebacker's interview answered a few questions, but created plenty more. One central question that may never be publicly answered: What, exactly, was the nature of Te'o's relationship with Kekua? Was it truly as deep as Te'o has made it out to be, or was it more along the lines of what some of Te'o's teammates reportedly suspected? If he really felt a deep, emotional love for Kekua, why would school and football get in the way of him attempting to see her when she was in the hospital?

The answers to those questions have nothing to do with a hoax, though -- they would've been questions if Kekua had actually existed. The hoax angle hasn't been completely answered yet, but is far closer than most questions. Most of the evidence, outside of a friend of Tuiasosopo's telling Deadspin there was an "80 percent" chance Te'o was involved, seems to point to Te'o being duped.

A few other questions: If Te'o wasn't convinced Kekua didn't exist until a few days ago, what did the findings of the investigation commissioned by Notre Dame find? Were those findings shared with just Te'o's parents, or did he have access to them as well?

The question of why Te'o still referred to Kekua as being dead after Dec. 6 wasn't completely answered -- perhaps he believed his version of Kekua died on Sept. 12, but then why did he only come to the realization she didn't exist on Wednesday?

These are all questions -- and there are more, too -- that can be answered with a follow-up interview -- if that is to occur, either soon, at the NFL combine in February or when Te'o moves on to the NFL. The answers to them certainly won't satisfy everyone, no matter how apt an explanation as plenty have already made up their minds on one side of the fence or the other regarding Te'o.

But a gray area remains in this saga, and it's one that may never go away.

Pat Summitt used the sport to empower women at Tennessee and beyond

pat_summitt_legacy_slide_06-28-16.jpg

Pat Summitt used the sport to empower women at Tennessee and beyond

Needing yet another men's basketball coach, Tennessee officials turned to the one person they thought would be perfect to take over the Volunteers program.

Pat Summitt said no.

She wasn't interested in the job in 1994 after Wade Houston was forced out, and she turned it down again when Jerry Green quit in March 2001. A Tennessee governor once joked he wouldn't have his job if Summitt ever wanted to run her home state.

Breaking the glass ceiling in the men's game, political office, that wasn't Summitt's motivation. She had the only job she ever really wanted.

"I want to keep doing the right things for women all the time," Summitt said in June 2011 after being inducted into her fifth Hall of Fame.

Summitt died Tuesday morning at age 64.

The woman who grew up playing basketball in a Tennessee barn loft against her brothers, and started coaching only a couple years after Title IX was invoked, spent her life working to make women's basketball the equal of the men's game. In the process, Patricia Sue Head

Summitt stood amongst the best coaches in any sport when she retired in April 2012 with more victories (1,098) than any other NCAA coach and second only to John Wooden with eight national championships.

Summitt used the sport and her demand for excellence to empower women and help them believe they can achieve anything, taking no backseat to anyone.

When I moved to Tennessee in 1976, girls played six-on-six, half-court basketball designed to protect them from getting hurt. Summitt, who took her Lady Vols to four AIAW Final Fours, refused to recruit Tennessee players. Tennessee high schools switched to five-on-five rules starting with the 1979-80 season.

The NCAA finally started running a national postseason tournament for the women in 1982. At the time, Summitt was known for having "corn-fed chicks" on her roster, big and strong but not talented enough to win national titles. After she won her first national title in 1987 in her eighth Final Four either in the AIAW or NCAA, she said, "Well, the monkey's off my back."

Back then only a student ID was needed to attend a women's game. And there was no demand for the results of those games. After graduating from Tennessee, I helped the sports writers by bringing notes from an NCAA Tournament game back to the office for someone else to write up. There was no urgency since there was no reader demand.

So Summitt worked to make it impossible to ignore her team or the women's game.

By January 1993, so many people wanted to watch then-No. 2 Tennessee visit top-ranked Vanderbilt that the contest became the first Southeastern Conference women's game to sell out in advance. With children under 6 allowed in free, having a ticket didn't guarantee getting through the door; at least 1,000 were turned away at the door - including Vanderbilt's chancellor.

The Lady Vols won 73-68, a game I covered in my first year as a sports writer for The Associated Press in Nashville.

"This was the biggest game in women's basketball, and that's what I've been waiting 19 years to see," Summitt said. "I'm glad I stayed around to see it."

Summitt scheduled opponents anywhere and everywhere, barnstorming the country to introduce people to women's basketball. Tennessee played Arizona State in 2000 in the first women's outdoor game played at then-Bank One Ballpark, drew the largest crowd ever to a regional championship in March 1998 when 14,848 packed Memorial Gym in Nashville with Tennessee trying to finish off the NCAA's first three-peat and helped Louisville set a Big East record christening the KFC Yum! Center in 2010.

The Lady Vols became must-see TV in the sport as Summitt put the women's game on the national stage with six national titles in the span of 12 years.

I remember when I got real up-close look at what drove Summitt.

Assigned to cover Summitt as part of AP's annual college basketball preview package in the fall of 1998, I spent nearly 30 minutes with the coach in her office.

Door closed, Summitt gave a glimpse of that famous stay-away stare. With undivided attention now on me, she wanted to know if I had talked with her mother, Hazel, for the story. She then showed me the engaging side, laughing when asked about a stretch of play during the 1998 title game that resembled the Showtime Lakers, beaming while reflecting on how well her Lady Vols showed women could play the game.

The Lady Vols lost 69-63 to Duke that season in the East Regional. The next day I left a message at Summitt's house and late that afternoon, she called back to talk about more life lessons and basketball.

"It's a game, and winning and losing both can be great ways to teach kids how to get ready for the real world," said Summitt, who had to stop the interview because her mother had given son, Tyler, a gift. She explained he would have to save some of that cash before buying something for himself. Then she resumed the conversation about the game.

That was Pat Summitt: Hoops and family.

She held everyone to the exacting standards she learned from her father cutting tobacco and helping bale hay on the family farm. Tennessee and Connecticut was the biggest draw in women's basketball with Geno Auriemma and his Huskies handing Summitt her lone title game loss in 1995. But Summitt canceled the series in 2007 and refused to say why other than, "Geno knows."

Summitt ended a nine-year championship drought with her seventh national title in 2007 followed by the eighth in 2008. She became the first NCAA coach to win 1,000 games Feb. 5, 2009, and received a new contract that boosted her annual salary to $1.4 million - far removed from the $8,900 of her first season.

She never got to the 40th season in that contract, her career cruelly and prematurely ended by early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. She finished 1,098-208 with 18 Final Fours, at the time tying the men of UCLA and North Carolina for the most by any college basketball program.

Not that numbers define Summitt, who once said, "Records are made to be broken."

Yes, all marks fade, but no one will eclipse Summitt's contributions to women's basketball.

Illini starting pitcher Cody Sedlock named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year

Illini starting pitcher Cody Sedlock named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year

University of Illinois starting pitcher Cody Sedlock was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year on Tuesday.

The junior from Sherrard, Ill., led the conference in strikeouts (116) and innings pitched (101.1).

He is the fifth Illini pitcher to take home the award, following Tyler Jay who was given the honor last year — and later went on to be picked No. 6 overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2015 MLB draft. It's the second time in program history that an Illini pitcher has won the award in back-to-back seasons.

The right-hander Sedlock is projected by many to be a first-round selection in the upcoming MLB draft on June 9.

Sheryl Swoopes under investigation for coaching practices at Loyola

ap_1604041734323696.jpg

Sheryl Swoopes under investigation for coaching practices at Loyola

Loyola women's basketball coach Sheryl Swoopes is under investigation for coaching practices at the university.

The investigation was sparked after 10 of the team's 12 players have transferred or have requested releases — nine having been recruited by Swoopes. Loyola began an "independent and comprehensive university investigation" on April 15.

According to Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune, five former players have stated that Swoopes' "unusual coaching style" was the reason behind their exits.

Swoopes has declined to comment on any allegations, according to Ryan. Loyola released the following statement on Thursday:

"Until the investigation is completed, the athletics department and women's basketball coaching staff are conducting business as usual as we prepare for the 2016-2017 season."

Swoopes is listed as one of the greatest WNBA players of all-time. She was hired to coach Loyola's women's basketball team in 2013.

Click here to read the full story from the Chicago Tribune.