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


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 Te'o wasn't involved as well.

In fact, right as this article was published, 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.

Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick tells ESPN Brian Kelly will be back in 2017

Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick tells ESPN Brian Kelly will be back in 2017

Brian Kelly's job at Notre Dame apparently is not in jeopardy despite the team's 2-5 start to the 2016 season. 

Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick told that Kelly "will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year."

Kelly has come under fire for his perceived penchant for criticizing players before himself as well as his behavior on the sidelines as Notre Dame's chances of becoming bowl eligible have slipped this season. The seventh-year Irish coach, though, was praised for his relationship with his team by Swarbrick, who told ESPN it's "probably as strong as any that I've seen with him at Notre Dame." Multiple players said after Notre Dame's loss to Stanford last weekend that they didn't believe Kelly had lost the team

Kelly and Notre Dame agreed to a six-year contract extension in January that runs through the 2021 season. 

Notre Dame grades: Highs and lows on special teams

Notre Dame grades: Highs and lows on special teams

With Notre Dame in its bye week, we’re grading each unit on the 2-5 Irish. We’ve covered the coaching staff, offense and defense, so today we’re closing out the midterm report card with special teams. 

Placekicking: C

Justin Yoon already has more misses (three) on nine kicks than he had last year (two) on 17 attempts. A blocked attempt at Texas and a miss against Duke hurt in three-point losses, though his grade gets boosted a bit given he managed to connect on a field goal at N.C. State, which looked akin to kicking a bag of wet rags from a puddle (full credit to long snapper Scott Daly and holder Montgomery VanGorder, too, for successfully getting the ball down for Yoon in those awful conditions). 

Punting: C

It’s been a boom-or-bust season for Tyler Newsome, who’s blasted some bombs, like a 69-yarder at N.C. State, but also has had a few shanks, like his 24-yarder that gave Texas the ball at its own 32-yard line before the Longhorns drove to briefly take the lead in the fourth quarter of Notre Dame’s season-opening loss in Austin. Newsome ranks 29th in FBS with an average of 43.69 yards per punt, though this unit’s grade is dinged thanks to allowing that blocked punt/touchdown at N.C. State that wound up being the difference in Hurricane Matthew. 

Kick/punt returns: B+

C.J. Sanders remains an explosive returning weapon, taking a kick back 93 yards for a touchdown against Syracuse and nothing 40- and 24-yard punt returns in Notre Dame’s first two games of the season. A few points are taken off the grade here for a Michigan State punt bouncing off Miles Boykin’s calf and being recovered by the Spartans, which sparked their 36-point surge in mid-September. 

Kick/punt coverage: D+

Yoon has done a good job kicking directionally on kickoffs — he deftly placed a pair of kicks into the back corner of the end zone against Stanford, which would’ve been huge had Christian McCaffrey played — which is probably the biggest positive here. Shaun Wilson's 96-yard kickoff return took the shine off Notre Dame’s 14-0 early lead against Duke and helped propel the Blue Devils to a 38-35 win; on punt returns, the Irish rank 122nd in FBS, allowing 15.77 yards per return. 

Jarron Jones: A+

Jones gets his own grade here for his unique and, quite frankly, incredible knack for blocking kicks. The graduate student blocked a pair of PAT attempts against Texas and Syracuse that were each returned for two-point scores, with the one against Texas tying the game at 37. Jones has six blocked field goals/PATs in his career, earning himself a special distinction here in the special teams category.