Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o waits for the snap during the second… (Winslow Townson / Associated…)
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o claims he was the victim of an Internet hoax after it was discovered that his girlfriend, whose death he said inspired him to play better as he led the Irish to the BCS title game, never existed.
Te'o and the school said that someone using a fictitious name "apparently ingratiated herself" with Te'o, then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had died of leukemia.
"On the morning of Dec. 26, very early morning, Manti called his coaches to inform them that while he was in attendance at the ESPN awards show in Orlando, he received a phone call from a number he recognized as having been that he associated with Lennay Kekua," Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said. "When he answered it, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same person he had talked to, who told him that she was, in fact, not dead. Manti was very unnerved by that, as you might imagine."
Friends and relatives of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo told Deadspin.com that they believe Tuiasosopo created Kekua. A friend of Tuiasosopo told Deadspin he was "80% sure" that Te'o was a willing participant of the hoax and did so with publicity in mind. According to the Deadspin report, Te'o and Tuiasosopo have been in contact via Twitter, including exchanging several messages last summer.
Te'o issued a statement Wednesday afternoon:
"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.
"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."
So, what do you believe? Was Te'o a victim, a participant, or will we never know for sure? Vote in our poll and let us know your thoughts.