SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o didn't show any signs of being affected by the girlfriend hoax leading up to the BCS title game, but his play indicates it may have taken a toll, coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday.
"Hindsight is 20-20. I didn't think going into the game he was affected by it. But he didn't play his best. Alabama had something to do with that, clearly. But I really don't know," Kelly said.
"It's a lot to weigh on the shoulders of somebody. I think we can make the leap that maybe it did. But I think Manti would know for sure."
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said linebacker Manti Te‘o “didn’t play his best against Alabama,” but isn’t sure if he was distracted.
AP file photo
Te'o, a Punahou School alumnus, said in an interview with ESPN after the news of the hoax broke that it did not affect his performance in the title game blowout.
Kelly spoke to reporters Tuesday by conference call for the first time since the Irish were beaten 42-14 by Alabama in the BCS title game on Jan. 7.
Kelly said so far everything that has come out about the girlfriend hoax matches up with what Te'o told him when he called him on Dec. 26. Kelly contacted athletic director Jack Swarbrick immediately after Te'o told him what happened.
"Obviously, we all heard the story. It just sounded so crazy that the first thing I wanted to make sure we did was get the right people on top of this immediately," Kelly said. "That was my first thought, to find out, 'What the heck is going on here.'"
Te'o had described the girlfriend, who supposedly died of leukemia last fall, the love of his life. But Te'o got a call from the person posing as the girlfriend on Dec. 6, to say she hadn't died. He continued to talk about her when questioned at the Heisman Trophy ceremony on Dec. 8. He told Kelly about the situation 18 days later.
Te'o told ESPN on Jan. 18 that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old acquaintance who lives in California, contacted him Jan. 16 and confessed to the prank.