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Notre Dame president defends handling of Te‘o matter

January 26, 2013
By TOM COYNE , The Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Top administrators at Notre Dame decided within hours of hearing about the Manti Te'o dead-girlfriend hoax that it did not involve a crime and within two days had concluded that no NCAA violation had taken place, according to a letter sent by the university president to board of trustee members on Friday.

The Rev. John Jenkins told trustees that despite "the unrelenting scrutiny of hundreds of journalists and countless others - and repeated attempts by some to create a different impression- no facts relating to the hoax have been at odds with what Manti told us" Dec. 27-28.

The letter was obtained Friday by The Associated Press from a university official who provided it on condition of anonymity because the private school's internal workings are confidential.

Article Photos

Manti Te‘o

The eight-page document, including a four-page letter from Jenkins and a four-page outline of how Notre Dame handled the hoax, is both a defense and an explanation of the school's actions.

"We did our best to get to the truth in extraordinary circumstances, be good stewards of the interests of the university and its good name and - as we do in all things - to make the well-being of our students one of our very highest priorities," Jenkins concluded in his letter.

Earlier this month, it was learned by the public that Lennay Kekua, the woman with whom Te'o has said he thought he had a relationship, did not exist.

Te'o, a Punahou School graduate, says that when the hoax was exposed, an acquaintance from California named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo confessed that he was behind the ruse and apologized.

Dr. Phil McGraw has booked the first on-camera interview with Tuiasosopo, a "Dr. Phil Show" spokes-person confirmed Friday. No further details of the interview, including its airdate, were announced.

Some of the timeline Notre Dame outlined is well known, including that its All-American linebacker disclosed the scam to his coaches the day after Christmas and it remained unknown to the public until Deadspin.com broke the story on Jan. 16, nine days after the Fighting Irish lost to Alabama in the Bowl Championship Series title game.

Jenkins wrote that Notre Dame officials talked in the hours after hearing from Te'o on Dec. 26 and agreed there was no indication of a crime or student conduct code violation. Athletic director Jack Swarbrick spoke with Te'o the next day, and on Dec. 28 the school concluded there were no indications of an NCAA rules violation.

The school then made moves to find out who was behind the hoax, thereby protecting Te'o and itself.

"For the first couple of days after receiving the news from Manti, there was considerable confusion and we simply did not know what there was to disclose," Jenkins wrote.

On Jan. 2, after several days of internal discussion, Notre Dame retained Stroz Friedberg, a New York computer forensics firm, to investigate the case and whether any other football players had been targeted. The firm did not return telephone or email messages left Friday.

Notre Dame officials believed Te'o's girlfriend - whether alive or dead - was at least a real person until the next day, when Stroz Friedberg said it could not find any evidence that Kekua or most of her relatives ever existed. By Jan. 4, Notre Dame officials concluded Te'o was the victim of the hoax and there was no threat to the school, and the private investigation was suspended.

"We concluded that this matter was personal to Manti," Jenkins wrote, deciding it was up to Te'o to disclose, especially after the Heisman Trophy runner-up signed with Creative Artists Agency on the day after the BCS game.

 
 
 

 

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