Notre Dame v Michigan State

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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Report: Big 12 narrows expansion list to 6-8 schools

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 7: Greg Ward Jr. #1 of the Houston Cougars escapes the tackle of Alex Pace #99 of the Cincinnati Bearcats in the first quarter of a NCAA football game at TDECU Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Eric Christian Smith/Getty Images)
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And then there were six. Or eight.

We know East Carolina is no longer in the running for the two or four new spots possibly coming to the Big 12, but the folks at The Media Guides believe they do. The site reported Wednesday the Big 12 has sent formal invitations to Cincinnati, Houston, Connecticut, South Florida, Central Florida, BYU and “two other AAC schools” to advance to the next round of the process, which is believed to be in-person interviews at the league’s suburban Dallas headquarters.

With ECU out, Navy showing no interest and five of the league’s 12 teams already reported in, that leaves a pool of five possible teams for the two additional spots: Memphis, SMU, Temple, Tulane and Tulsa.

Local reports have stated SMU, Temple and Tulane still involved in the process as recently as today and yesterday.

So, yeah, you do the math.

While the process publicly — and painfully — rambles on, Oct. 17 is the date to watch there. That’s the next scheduled gathering of the Big 12’s Board of Directors.

Tom Brady to serve as Michigan honorary captain during Deflategate suspension

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts against the Seattle Seahawks during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Well, here’s a story born straight out of SEO heaven.

New England Patriots quarterback — and, of course, former Wolverines signal caller — Tom Brady will serve as an honorary captain for Michigan during his Roger Goodell-mandated Deflategate suspension.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed the news on NFL Network’s Rich Eisen’s podcast. The Big House cameo will take place Sept. 17 as Michigan hosts Colorado.

Brady is free, of course, due to a wide-ranging controversy stemming from allegedly deflated footballs in the Patriots’ 45-7 trouncing of the Indianapolis Colts during the 2014 AFC Championship that led to him being suspended the first quarter of the 2016 season.

Brady played quarterback for the Wolverines from 1995-99 and has kept close ties with his alma mater since, but those have ramped up since Harbaugh’s late 2014 hiring. Most notably, Brady made an appearance at Harbaugh’s 2016 Signing Day extravaganza in February.

Beware Lambeau leapers: Les Miles says you’ll be thumbing your way back to the bayou

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 19: Davante Adams #17 of the Green Bay Packers does a Lambeau Leap after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field on October 19, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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One of the best traditions in the NFL apparently isn’t welcome at the collegiate level.

LSU and Wisconsin will square off opening weekend at historic Lambeau Field.  At the the Green Bay Packers’ house, every time the home team scores the scorer leaps into the stands to celebrate  with their fans– the famed Lambeau Leap.

In the run-up to one of the few collegiate games ever played in the venerable NFL stadium, it was made perfectly clear that such a leap would be against NCAA rules — “delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves)” is part of Rule 9, Section 2, while another part prohibits “going into the stands to interact with spectators” — and the leaper, and thus his team, would be subject to a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

At least on Tiger stated earlier this week that, despite the penalty and knowing “coach Miles won’t be happy with me,” he’s really “looking forward to” doing the Lambeau Leap. “I’ll take that punishment when we get back Monday morning,” defensive back/punt returner Tre’Davious White added.

Getting back, though, could prove problematic, especially if his coach follows through on his “threat.”

“I promise you that if anybody jumps (for) the Lambeau Leap, they’ll end up with their thumb out to see if they can get a ride home,” Les Miles said on the weekly SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday morning. “It’s college football, and we’ll play it that way, and I think our guys understand. We’ll do it right.”

There you have it.  You have been warned, Bayou Bengals. Leap at your own peril — especially when the whole “leaping into what will likely be a whole gaggle of Badger fans” aspect is taken into consideration as well.

After leaving Michigan, Ahmir Mitchell ‘appears headed to Rutgers’

PISCATAWAY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 21: The mascot of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights leads the team onto the field before their game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at High Point Solutions Stadium on September 21, 2013 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
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Ahmir Mitchell may have left Michigan, but he may not end up leaving the Big Ten after all.

Citing a source with knowledge of the situation, Todderick Hunt of nj.com is reporting that Rutgers is the likely destination for Mitchell.  Later on in the story, Hunt writes that Mitchell “appears to be headed to Rutgers.”

Maryland and Temple have also been considered potential landing spots.  It’s expected Mitchell will make a decision next week.

As for his eligibility now and in the future at whichever school he selects?  Hunt explains:

Per Big Ten transfer rules, Mitchell will have to sit out the 2016 season, and will lose an additional year of eligibility, in order to transfer home. But Mitchell is expected to appeal the rule, and potentially even fight for a hardship waver, which although unlikely, could get him on the field as early as this year.

Mitchell’s departure from Ann Arbor was certainly an odd one, cloaked in uncertainty and secrecy.

Jim Harbaugh had confirmed earlier this month that two of the three Michigan football players not present for a team photo — Mitchell, running back Kareem Walker and defensive lineman Shelton Johnson — had been suspended, although he declined to specify which two. A couple of weeks later, Mitchell announced that he had decided to reopen his recruitment even as UM would’ve allowed him to return if he paid his own way this semester.

A four-star 2016 recruit, Mitchell was rated as the No. 5 player at any position in the state of New Jersey and the No. 167 player overall on 247sports.com‘s composite board. He was an early enrollee who participated in spring practice.,