Woman tells OTL that Tuiasosopo admitted to duping Te’o

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It’s been two days since Deadspin published a report stating that Lennay Kekua, the girlfriend of Notre Dame All-American Manti Te’o — the same girlfriend who supposedly passed away last September following a battle with leukemia — was a hoax.

There have been a plethora of questions (and few answers) arising from this bizarre story, but the primary one has been whether Te’o was the victim of the hoax, as Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick stated in a press conference Wednesday night, or in on the hoax. Or, perhaps the truth is somewhere in between.

Either way, a confession of some kind appears to be the only way to begin to set this story straight. Turns out, there may be one.

The man believed to be behind the hoax, behind the identity of Kekua, is 22-year-old Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. On Friday, a woman identifying herself only as a friend of Tuiasosopo told ESPN’s Shelley Smith on “Outside the Lines” that Tuiasosopo confessed in December to duping Te’o. Not only that, but the woman stated Tuiasosopo admitted that Te’o was not his first target.

“He (Ronaiah) told me that Manti was not involved at all, he was a victim. … The girlfriend was a lie, the accident was a lie, the leukemia was a lie,” said the woman. “He was crying, he was literally crying, he’s like ‘I know, I know what I have to do.’

“It’s not only Manti, but he was telling me that it’s a lot of other people they had done this to.”

Two other people — 28-year-old J.R. Vaosa of Torrance, Calif., and 21-year-old Celeste Tuioti-Mariner, 21, of Whittier, Calif. — also told Smith on “OTL” that they had a cousin who fell victim to a similar online hoax, allegedly orchestrated by Tuiasosopo using Kekua’s identity, beginning in 2008.

“When Lennay said she was gonna be at this park one day, we’d go to the park and Ronaiah pops up and then we go to the gym in Orange County where the kids have volleyball tournaments, Ronaiah’s there,” Vaosa said.

Finally, the family convinced Vaosa’s cousin that something wasn’t right and he needed to cut things off not only with Kekua, but Tuiasosopo, whom they were convinced was the real Kekua, Tuioti-Mariner said.

According to the ESPN report, the woman whose photos were portrayed as Kekua has been identified by “Inside Edition” as Diane O’Meara. O’Meara’s attorney told “Inside Edition” that his client’s photos were stolen and used in the hoax. Deadspin reported that the woman whose photos were used was a former classmate of Tuiasosopo.

Vaosa and Tuioti-Mariner also appear to be the same individuals engaging with one another over the past month or so via Twitter regarding the hoax. Additionally, all three testimonies on “OTL” seem to line up with this paragraph from the Deadspin story:

… We spoke with friends and relatives of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo who asserted that Ronaiah was the man behind Lennay. He created Lennay in 2008, one source said, and Te’o wasn’t the first person to have an online “relationship” with her. One mark—who had been “introduced” to Lennay by Tuiasosopo—lasted about a month before family members grew suspicious that Lennay could never be found on the telephone, and that wherever one expected Lennay to be, Ronaiah was there instead. Two sources discounted Ronaiah’s stunt as a prank that only metastasized because of Te’o’s rise to national celebrity this past season.

Deadspin reports that “Te’o and Tuiasosopo definitely know each other,” but exactly how isn’t clear. A supposed friend of Tuiasosopo told Deadspin that he was “’80 percent sure’ that Manti Te’o was ‘in on it,’ and that the two perpetrated Lennay Kekua’s death with publicity in mind.”

However, Te’o’s uncle, Alema Te’o, appeared on The Zone Sports Network Thursday night to speak about the story. During the interview, he called Tuiasosopo a “liar” and noted during one particular interaction that Tuiasosopo began promoting a foundation to raise money for leukemia victims. 

Te’o has not spoken publicly about the hoax outside of a statement issued on Wednesday after the Deadspin story was published and there doesn’t appear to be any sign that he plans to do so in the foreseeable future. The questions Te’o will be asked once he does speak — be it with reporters or representatives from NFL clubs at the upcoming combine — will surely be numerous with explicit inquiries about the timeline of his supposed relationship with Kekua.

Updated 5:30 p.m. ET: The Honolulu Star-Advertiser adds a disturbing and bizarre twist on the Te’o story, reporting that Kekua told Te’o she had to fake her own death to avoid drug dealers. Te’o spoke over the phone with a person he believed to be Kekua on Dec. 6, nearly three months after she reportedly died.

New Mexico AD Paul Krebs in hot water for Scotland golf trip

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New Mexico AD Paul Krebs (right) had it all figured out. He wanted to go to Scotland to play golf (who doesn’t) but he didn’t want to pay for it (who does?). So he came up with a solution: he’d turn it into a UNM fundraising trip and make the school pay for it.

The school sold 23 packages to travel across the pond for a getaway of luxurious accommodations and bucket-list golf, but put the bills of himself, two UNM executives and a handful of local businessmen on the school’s dime. Lots of dimes, in fact. The trip cost the Lobos nearly $65,000.

“The trip was a working trip and it was designed to immerse us with these donors. It was an intensive experience and I understand why people may question it,” Krebs told KRQE-TV earlier this month.

Despite his attempt at justification, it appeared Krebs knew from the start the trip was an ethical no-no. The $65,000 bill was classified as a basketball tournament on UNM’s accounting paperwork, and Krebs failed to disclose the nature of the June 2015 trip to acting president Chaouki Abdallah until last week.

“VP Krebs came to me and told me that he wanted to tell me something that he had forgotten or did not tell me before,” Abdallah told KRQE. “I was not happy.”

It is not clear why the UNM Foundation or the Lobo Club,  non-profits that handles the school’s and the athletics department’s fundraising efforts, respectively, did not cover the cost of the trip, especially since Lobo Club executive director Kole McKamey was one of the UNM officials who was on the trip. Putting the bill on the university’s ledger also appears to be a violation of the state’s anti-donation laws. The $24,000 cost to take the Albuquerque businessmen has since been refunded by an anonymous donor.

“(Krebs) told me about it in no uncertain terms,” Abdallah told said. “He didn’t try to sugarcoat it. He said I made a mistake. I didn’t tell you about it before. Here’s what happened. I’m going to try to fix it.”

 

Miami Beach Bowl officially moves to Frisco, Texas

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The Miami Beach Bowl was an unnecessary bowl game played in a metro area already populated by bowl games — but at least it was in Miami. Bowl games may have lost their luster over the past decade-plus, but it’s hard to complain about being sent to South Beach in December for a football game.

The Miami Beach Bowl is no more, and it’s now been reincarnated as another unnecessary bowl game to be played in a metro area even more populated by bowl games — and it won’t be anywhere near as interesting as Miami.

Meet the Frisco Bowl, the newest ESPN-created postseason college football game to be played in the scenic locale of Frisco, Texas.

The north Dallas suburb will host the game at Toyota Stadium, a 20,500-seat outdoor venue that’s home to MLS club FC Dallas as well as the FCS National Championship every January. The Frisco Bowl will also compete for sponsorship dollars and public attention with the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, the Heart of Dallas Bowl in Dallas and the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.

“We are pleased to be able to host this game in one of the most vibrant football markets in the country,” said ESPN vice president of events Clint Overby. “The infrastructure and facilities that exist in Frisco are outstanding and will be an excellent venue for the teams, players, administrators and fans traveling into the marketplace. We look forward to working with civic organizations and businesses in the area to create an annual event that embraces the spirit of the community.”

The first annual Frisco Bowl will pit an American Athletic Conference team against a to-be-determined conference at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 20.

2017 Texas signee sees felony drug charge reduced to misdemeanor

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It appears the door to one member of Texas’ 2017 recruiting class arriving in Austin this summer has opened a little wider.

In late February, Reese Leitao was arrested at his Oklahoma high school on a charge of possession/delivery of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to sell within a thousand feet of a school, a felony.  Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesman is reporting, Leitao pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug possession charge.

As part of the plea agreement, Leitao received a four-year deferred sentence; provided he stays clean during that time, the charge will be wiped off his record.  The American-Statesman writes that, “[a]ccording to Leitao’s attorney, Leitao has ‘some probationary work,’including speaking engagements at schools, and will be under the supervision of the district attorney.”  A $1,000 fine was part of his punishment as well.

The ball is now in the hands of first-year UT head coach Tom Herman as to whether Leitao will have a football future with the Longhorns.

“I’m happy,” the attorney, Allen Smallwood, told the newspaper. “Hopefully the University of Texas will be happy.”

At the time of Leitao’s arrest, a statement attributed to Herman said that “[w]e’re collecting information, will talk to Reese and his family, let the legal system run its course and then address it further at the appropriate time.” As of this posting, the university has yet to publicly address the development.

Leitao was a three-star 2017 signee, rated as the No. 19 tight end in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Oklahoma.

Miami All-American, NFL Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy dead at 48

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One of the most physically-gifted and talented players in the history of Miami Hurricanes football is gone way, way too soon.

The Orlando Police Department confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Cortez Kennedy passed away earlier today.  He was just 48 years old.

No cause of death has been determined, with the OPD stating that “at this time there is nothing suspicious to report but we are conducting an investigation regarding his unattended passing.”

After starting his collegiate playing career at the junior college level, Kennedy moved on to the University of Miami, earning All-American honors in 1989.  In 2004, he was inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame.

The third overall pick of the 2000 NFL draft, Kennedy spent his entire 11-year pro career with the Seattle Seahawks.  In 2012, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Not surprisingly, Kennedy’s sudden passing has brought an outpouring of emotion from those connected to the football program.