Two days after Deadspin reported that Lennay Kekua, the girlfriend of Notre Dame All-American Manti Te’o who supposedly passed away last September, was a hoax, Te’o broke his silence to ESPN in a two and a half hour off-camera interview.
As one would imagine, Te’o denied playing any sort of role in the hoax. Here are highlights of what ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap has reported so far:
- Te’o says he never had any part in the hoax and never made anything up to help his Heisman candidacy.
- Te’o did, however, say he lied to his father about having met Kekua. Te’o confessed that he “kind of catered [his] stories” about Kekua to suggest that they had met.
- Te’o claimed “Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing.” When asked who they were, Te’o replied “I don’t know. According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah’s one.”
- Te’o says he was never asked for money, but Kekua once requested his checking account number to send him money. Te’o did not give her the number.
- Apparently confirming a CBSSports report released earlier Friday evening, Te’o said he tried to speak with Kekua via Skype and Facetime on several occasions, but that he only saw a “black box” on the other end.
- Te’o said that he began contact with Kekua on Facebook his freshman year. Things “got serious” on April 28, the day he was told she’d been in a car crash. The relationship is described by Te’o as being intermittent.
- When asked why he never visited Kekua in the hospital, Te’o replied “It never really crossed my mind. I don’t know. I was in school.”
- Te’o claims he and Kekua got in an argument when she called him after his grandmother passed away. “She was saying, ‘You know, I’m trying to be here for you.’ I didn’t want to be bothered. I wanted to be left alone. I just wanted to be by myself. Last thing she told me was ‘Just know I love you.’ “
- Te’o told ESPN that, until two days ago, he was not fully convinced Kekua didn’t exist. That’s when Te’o said he received an apology from Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man believed to be behind the hoax and Kekua’s cousin, according to Te’o. (A note: Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in Wednesday’s press conference that Te’o was the victim of a hoax and that the university handed the information over to a PI firm that returned a report on Jan. 4.)
- According to Te’o, a group of people related to Tuiasosopo showed up at Notre Dame’s team hotel for the BCS National championship game.
- The first time Te’o said he met Tuiasosopo was after Notre Dame beat USC on Nov. 24. Deadspin reported that Te’o and Tuiasosopo “definitely knew each other” but how was unclear.
There is also an interesting read from the USA Today which was published late Friday night. The paper reports that the cousin of Tuiasosopo faced many parallels in her life similar to Kekua, including a battle with leukemia.
Earlier today, “Outside the Lines” spoke with three people who believed Tuiasosopo was in fact orchestrating a hoax on Te’o, with one person claiming he confessed to the act to her in December. Later in the afternoon, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that Kekua (or, a voice speaking as Kekua) told Te’o via telephone on Dec. 6 during the college football awards show that she had faked her death to hide from drug dealers.
Looks like Cincinnati didn’t need to go far to find their replacement for Tommy Tuberville.
According to Toledo sports reporter Jordan Strack, the Bearcats will make the hire of Ohio State co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell official on Saturday.
A person told USA Today that talks between the two parties were progressing on Friday night but not yet complete.
The move makes plenty of sense for Fickell, a Columbus, Ohio native who has spent nearly his entire career in the state not too far from Cincinnati. He did serve as interim head coach of the Buckeyes back when Jim Tressel was fired and was retained by Urban Meyer and served as one of the mainstays of the defensive staff.
Cincinnati has served as a bit of a stepping-stone job to major openings around the Midwest and has proven to be one of the more desirable jobs in the AAC given the resources at the school and the local talent base. The hiring of somebody like Fickell makes plenty of sense on both ends and it seems like the only unknown at this point is whether he sticks around for Ohio State’s semifinal game against Clemson or heads to Cincinnati right away.
After missing out on becoming head coach at Houston, it appears Lane Kiffin’s pursuit of a new job is moving on.
Moving on down to Boca Raton apparently.
First reported by FootballScoop, two sources confirmed to the Associated Press on Friday evening that Florida Atlantic is pursuing Kiffin to become the Owls’ next football coach.
Kiffin has also reportedly been in the mix at South Florida but it looks as though the Bulls are moving quickly to getting a deal done with Charlie Strong. If the former Texas coach turns USF down, the Alabama offensive coordinator could get back in the running in his old hometown of Tampa.
The Owls would represent an interesting destination if the two parties come together however. Combined with his offensive background and ability to recruit, the area known as a retirement mecca could instead be the perfect place for the young Kiffin to continue to rehabilitate his image. The program is looking to replace Charlie Partridge after three 3-9 seasons but FAU has solid facilities for a CUSA team and is located in a talent-rich area.
It seems like quite the drop from being the offensive coordinator at a program like Alabama but the drive to be a head coach is clearly a strong one for Kiffin.
One of the most interesting hires this offseason has been Baylor bringing in Matt Rhule over from Temple to be the program’s new head coach.
Rhule didn’t have any previous ties to the state of Texas so many folks were wondering what kind of staff would he assemble. On Friday it seems, we’re getting our first look that not a ton is going to change from his days in Philadelphia.
Baylor announced that four staff members — Francis Brown, Evan Cooper, Sean Padden and Mike Siravo — would be following Rhule from the Owls to the Bears. The program also made official the previously reported hire of Texas high school coach Paul Wetzel.
Padden was previously an associate AD at Temple and heads to Waco as Baylor’s new director of football operations. Titles were not given out for the other three members but Brown coached defensive backs for the Owls, Siravo was the team’s linebackers coach and Cooper was the director of player personnel.
Those hires represent plenty of familiar faces and continuity for Rhule as he settles in with Baylor and figure to be the first of many new coaches added to the staff over the coming weeks.
The release did not state whether they would be remaining with Temple through the team’s Military Bowl appearance but it seems pretty clear they will be filling their new roles relatively quick and probably won’t coach in the Owls’ final game this season.
It took a few weeks, but Missouri head coach Barry Odom has a new defensive line coach.
The school announced the hiring of Brick Haley on Friday afternoon, a longtime veteran SEC coach who heads to Columbia after previously serving on Charlie Strong’s staff at Texas.
“I’m very pleased and really excited to be joining Coach Odom’s program,” said Haley in a release. “We haven’t worked together, but I’m very aware of him and the reputation he has in the coaching profession. I look at this as an unbelievable opportunity to work with someone who has such an impressive passion and work ethic. It didn’t take me long in our conversations to know that Coach Odom is the right guy and someone you want to work with. I believe that Mizzou is a place where the sky is the limit, and I’m looking forward to being part of the program.”
Haley has a strong reputation as a recruiter, which is helpful considering that the Tigers are in a bit of a rebuilding job right now. In addition his recent stop at Texas, he also coached at LSU, the Chicago Bears, Mississippi State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and others.
Missouri does have a strong tradition of producing first-round picks along the defensive line and it appears that, after a one year speed bump with Jackie Shipp, the program has found the next coach to help carry on that tradition.