The pressing unanswered issue in the Manti Te’o fake girlfriend hoax has been what role, if any, did he have in perpetuating the lie of his imaginary girlfriend who died on the same day as his grandmother. Deadspin, which broke the story, spoke to a source who is 80 percent sure Te’o was in on it. Still, that number is flimsy, and we still don’t know when Te’o got in on it, if we’re to take the over in that figure.
Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick gave us some clarity in a press conference he held a little over an hour ago, in which he said Te’o was in fact not in on it, but did know something was up a few weeks prior to the story breaking today. The hammer allegedly dropped on Te’o when he a received a phone call on December 26 from a girlfriend he believed dead for over two months.
“He became startled, shocked. That was absolutely the first sign,” Swarbrick said of Te’o’s reaction. “It goes to my comments about Manti and his character. Every single thing about this until that day in the first week of December was real about this to Manti. There was no suspicion that it wasn’t, no belief that it might not be. The pain was real, the grief was real, the affection was real.”
If anything, Notre Dame has been extremely candid since news of the hoax broke. They, as well as Te’o, released a statement accepting responsibility and coming to very certain terms with what happened. It leads one to believe that Swarbrick should be taken completely seriously and that Te’o, while technically he did know about the hoax weeks prior to today, wasn’t necessarily complicit in it.
This isn’t to say Deadspin’s 80-percent figure is false, because this certainly does make Te’o complicit, at least to a certain extent. But if we’re to believe Swarbrick, it means Te’o did not manufacture this story to earn sympathy points, create faux inspiration and build his image. Lying at this stage in the game about a phone call Te’o received from a person he thought was dead and the effect it had on him (remember, the kid is just a college senior), given what Notre Dame has come out and said already, just wouldn’t make sense.