Swarbrick addresses Te’o situation, but questions remain

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Or, rather, one very key question remains.

The sports news cycle exploded Wednesday evening with a Deadspin report alleging that the story surrounding the death of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o‘s girlfriend was in fact a lie allegedly perpetrated in part by the player.  Both the University and Te’o followed that up with separate statements that each came to the same conclusion — Te’o had been duped by and became the unwitting victim of an elaborate hoax.

At a hastily arranged press conference Wednesday, athletic director Jack Swarbrick continued that theme.  In opening remarks before taking questions from the assembled media, Swarbrick described Te’o as “the perfect mark,” saying that the Heisman finalist “was the victim of that hoax. … is the victim of that hoax, and he will carry that with him for a while.”

Based on information relayed to him by Te’o as part of the school’s own initial look into the situation, Swarbrick stated that Te’o received a call in early December from a number associated with Lennay Kekua — the girlfriend who Te’o had proclaimed to be the love of his life — and with a voice on the other end of the line that sounded like that of Kekua claiming she had not in fact died three months earlier.  Three weeks later, on Dec. 26, Te’o took that information to the Irish coaching staff before it ultimately landed in the hands of a private investigation firm.

A report from that investigative firm was delivered to the University Jan. 4 — three days before the Irish played Alabama for the BCS championship — and forwarded to Te’o and his family. “It… is my understanding that they were on a timetable to release the story themselves next week when today’s story broke,” Swarbrick stated.

The hoax perpetrated by multiple unidentified individuals was so elaborate, Swarbrick explained, that there was even “a place to send flowers” after Kekua’s supposed death.

“There are a remarkable number of characters involved,” the AD explained. “We don’t know how many people they represent. There are male and female characters, brothers, cousins, mother, and we don’t know if it’s two people playing multiple characters or multiple people. But, again, it goes to the sophistication of this, that there are all these sort of independent pieces that reinforce elements of the story all the way through.”

Swarbrick at one point was on the verge of tears, pausing for several seconds to compose himself as he described the “tragedy” of “the single most trusting human being I’ve ever met will never be able to trust in the same way again in his life.”  That specific exchange was the overriding takeaway from Swarbrick’s surreal press conference, one that shows, right or wrong, the athletic director is standing firmly behind Te’o’s version of what transpired over the past three years.

Despite Swarbrick’s staunch and eloquent and oft-times emotional support of Te’o, there was one nagging question that the AD simply couldn’t or wouldn’t answer.  What was the nature of Te’o’s supposed relationship with Kekua?

“What I will tell you, this was exclusively an online relationship,” Swarbrick said when asked to explain how the Te’o-Kekua pairing came to be.

That, though, doesn’t jibe with an Oct. 12, 2012 article from the South Bend Tribune — an article, incidentally, that was taken offline in the wake of the Deadspin story — that contained these quotes from Te’o’s father.

“They started out as just friends,” Brian Te’o told the Tribune. “Every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there. But within the last year, they became a couple.”

A short time later, Swarbrick was asked about when the relationship began and how they met.

“I don’t remember the exact length of time,” Swarbrick said, “but it had it began with an online reaching-out to him that he responded to.”

Again, that falls short of the narrative spun in the Tribune story, which focuses on Te’o and Kekua meeting after the Notre Dame-Stanford game in 2009.

Their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te’o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes.

Lennay Kekua was a Stanford student and Cardinal football fan when the two exchanged glances, handshakes and phone numbers that fateful weekend three seasons ago.

Near the end of the press conference, a reporter again pressed Swarbrick on how the relationship between Te’o and Kekua had been portrayed, intimating that it was the player himself who led many to believe that the two had met in 2009 at Stanford.  Essentially, the whole “hoax” claim was again being called into question, and Swarbrick again danced around any type of in-person meeting between the couple.

Q: …I know there have been reports that Manti said he had an initial face to face meeting with his girlfriend at Stanford at some point. What’s going on with that?

JACK SWARBRICK: Again, I’ll let Manti provide the details, but as I said earlier in this press conference, when Manti took me through the entire story from start to finish, when he first described the contact, he used the verb met. For him, the fact that they connected online, that they met online, was consistent with using that verb. Not one that I might have chosen, but it was for him.

How stares get pleasantly tangled or handshakes get exchanged in an initial online connection is, at the moment, the great unknown and will take an explanation from the player himself to unravel that technological mystery.

Speaking of which, Swarbrick suggested during his press conference that Te’o could meet with the media as early as Thursday.  Whether any additional light will be shed on the bizarre situation, or whether Te’o will further bury himself in the court of public opinion, when that inquisition takes place remains to be seen.

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Nick Saban, other write-in votes may have helped decide Alabama’s contentious Senate election

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Could Nick Saban have inadvertently played a role in the outcome of a historic election?  Believe it or not, that may actually be a valid question.

As this is a college football site, we won’t go into the background of the contentious U.S. Senate campaign waged between Democrat Doug Jones and scandal-plagued Republican Roy Moore in the state of Alabama.  In the run-up to the special election in the state Tuesday, however, one Democrat-leaning political action committee urged Republican voters who couldn’t vote for a Democrat and were leery of voting for Moore to use a write-in vote, specifically using the name of the Alabama head football coach to illustrate that option.

With 99 percent of the vote tabulated, NBC News reported earlier this morning that Jones held a lead of just under 21,000 votes.  It has since been reported that, with 100 percent of the votes in, there were nearly 23,000 write-in votes cast, with Jones’ lead still holding at just under 21,000 votes.

Because of a new state law, some are saying it’s likely we’ll know exactly how many of those write-in votes were for Saban.  From fivethirtyeight.com late Tuesday night:

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Jones has a margin of 0.7 points over Moore, and the share of write-in votes is more than double that, at around 1.7 percent. Who were people writing in? If that difference holds, we’ll know in due time. In 2016, the Alabama state legislature passed a law requiring the write-in votes to be tallied if the share of write-ins exceeds the margin between the first- and second-place candidates — exactly the situation we’re in now.

“I’m a life-long Republican,” voter Gary Dobbins told MSNBC by way of al.com. “This is the first time in my entire life that I haven’t voted for the Republican candidate.

“I wrote in Nick Saban instead. The reason why is at first I was going to vote for the other guy. Then, I had a crisis in the voting booth and started thinking about what Richard Shelby had said and Condoleezza Rice. I just wrote in Nick Saban.”

West Virginia the landing spot for ex-Michigan DB Keith Washington

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After a brief pit stop at the junior college level, Keith Washington has found his way back to the FBS level.

The defensive back announced via Twitter that he has committed to West Virginia and will continue his collegiate playing career with the Mountaineers. As Washington spent the 2017 season at a Mississippi JUCO, he will be eligible to play for WVU immediately in 2018.

Washington held two other Power Five offers in this second round of recruitment, and both were from fellow Big 12 programs — Kansas and Texas Tech. East Carolina, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Toledo and UAB had extended offers as well.

Washington was a three-star member of Michigan’s 2015 recruiting class, Jim Harbaugh‘s first with the Wolverines, coming out of high school in Alabama. After redshirting as a true freshman, he played in nine games during the 2016 season.

Before the start of this past season, he decided to transfer from the Wolverines.

Shea Patterson talks transfer from Ole Miss to Michigan, confident he’ll be eligible to play in 2018

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One of the bigger player personnel moves of the 2018 offseason has already gone down in the midst of the 2017 bowl season, with Shea Patterson announcing earlier this week that he would be transferring to Michigan from Ole Miss.  The touted quarterback’s decision was seemingly triggered by not only Hugh Freeze‘s firing as head coach, but an additional one-year bowl ban tagged on to the Rebels football program.

In his first interview since the move, Patterson, who was born in Toledo and lived in the city until he was 11, told Kyle Rowland of the Toledo Blade that (surprise!!!) the off-field rancor in Oxford indeed led him to Ann Arbor.

“I’m really not one to jump ship on anything,” the sophomore signal-caller told the Blade. “But I’m really big on setting goals and achieving them. I did that throughout high school. One of the main goals was to win a national championship. At Ole Miss, I didn’t have an opportunity to do that. Things didn’t shake out the way I planned — coach got fired, the two-year bowl ban.

“I couldn’t look back on it after college and say I never got an opportunity to play for something like that.”

As part of the latest bowl ban, any Ole Miss player entering his final season of eligibility is free to transfer to another program without being forced to sit out a year.  While players like Patterson saw Ole Miss roll back the restrictions placed by the university on a transfer destination, it has been thought that those Rebel players with more than a year of eligibility remaining would still have to sit out the NCAA-mandated transfer year.

Patterson is confident, though, that, because of his former school’s issues, he will receive a waiver from The Association that would allow him to play immediately in 2018 at his new school.

“From what I’m hearing, I’m pretty sure that I will win that and be able to play next year,” Patterson said according to the newspaper.

A consensus five-star 2016 recruit, Patterson was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 4 player overall on its composite board.  After starting the last three games of his true freshman season, Patterson started the first seven games of 2017 before going down with a season-ending knee injury.

If Patterson does get the waiver, he’d compete with redshirt freshman Brandon Peters, a four-star 2016 signee who took over the starting job in late October, and true freshman Dylan McCaffrey, a four-star 2017 signee who took a redshirt this season, for the starting job.

Status of Wyoming QB Josh Allen for bowl game up in the air

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Josh Allen won’t be Fournetting or McCaffreying his team’s bowl game this season, but it’s still undetermined whether or not he’ll be able to play in it.

Allen has been dealing with an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder that kept him out of Wyoming’s last two games of the regular season. While he’s been practicing with his teammates in preparation for the Dec. 22 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl matchup with Central Michigan, his status for the postseason game is up in the air.

It appears though, that, one way or another, a decision on the quarterback’s availability will be made over the next several days.

“I’m still getting better day by day,” Allen said according to the Laramie Boomerang. “It is still not where I think it needs to be or want it to be, but things are progressively getting better. Throwing is becoming a lot easier, more effortless. I am on the right track, but we will be needing to know an answer (if I’m playing) in the coming days.

“I will be in the training room 24/7, trying to get back on the field, trust me.”

It’s believed that the junior is playing his final season with the Cowboys as he’s projected to be one of the first three or four quarterbacks taken in the 2018 NFL draft if he leaves early. In fact, he was introduced with Wyoming’s seniors on Senior Day late in the regular season, a clear sign that he’s all but out the door.

Players such as Allen have until mid-January to officially declare for the April draft.

Last season, Allen completed exactly 56 percent of his passes for 3,203 yards, 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Through 10 games this season, and with less of a supporting cast around him, the 6-5, 240-pound redshirt junior has hit on 56.2 percent of his attempts for 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. His yards per attempt have gone down from 8.59 in 2016 to 6.61 in 2017, although he’s thrown a pick in every 42 attempts this season compared to one every 25 last season.