What, you thought (hoped?) you’d get through another day without an update on one of the most bizarre stories the sports world has seen in recent years?
Appearing on NBC’s Today show Tuesday, the woman who served as the public “face” of Manti Te’o‘s faux girlfriend in a bizarrely elaborate hoax claimed she “never met Te’o… never spoke with… never exchanged words, tweets” with the former Notre Dame linebacker.
Diane O’Meara (pictured), who the world had previously known as Te’o’s dead girlfriend Lennay Kekua, confirmed that she went to high school with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the alleged “mastermind” behind the hoax. O’Meara claimed that Tuiasosopo had stalked her via Facebook for several years and had stolen photos of her that were ultimately used as the public face of Kekua, who Te’o had built an online relationship with and who supposedly succumbed to leukemia in September of last year.
O’Meara only learned she was a bit player in Tuiasosopo’s alleged hoax when she was contacted by writers from Deadspin.com, which broke the story earlier this month.
In the interview, O’Meara stated that “Ronny has called and not only confessed, but he has also apologized.” An apology, though, doesn’t go far enough for a woman unwittingly dragged into Tuiasosopo’s tangled web.
“I don’t think there’s anything he could say to me that would fix this,” the 23-year-old Los Angeles marketing executive said.
Tuiasosopo and his family have hinted that they could speak publicly this week for the first time, although that’s far from a certainty given the fluid nature of the situation. Te’o, who sat down for an off-camera interview late last week, is expected to have an on-camera interview with Katie Couric this week. Te’o has denied he was participant in the hoax, although he has acknowledged “catering” his stories about Kekua.
For the entire O’Meara interview, click on the video below.
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Tuesday night, the Pullman Police Department confirmed that 21-year-old Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski was found dead in his apartment of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Very early Wednesday morning, the football program and athletic department released statements addressing the devastating developments.
HEAD FOOTBALL COACH MIKE LEACH
“We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Tyler’s passing. He was an incredible young man and everyone who had the privilege of knowing him was better for it. The entire WSU community mourns as thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
INTERIM ATHLETIC DIRECTOR John Johnson
“The tragic news today surrounding Tyler Hilinski is devastating to all. Tyler was a tremendous individual, great friend and teammate, and he will be deeply missed. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.
“Earlier tonight, the football team was brought together and informed of the tragedy. There, they were met by campus and department counseling and psychological services, including athletics’ on-staff clinical psychologist and a licensed mental health counselor, along with WSU Athletics medical team. The university will continue to coordinate and provide ongoing counseling care for all student-athletes as long as needed.“
There is utterly tragic and horrific news coming out of Pullman Tuesday night.
According to the Pullman Police Department, Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski was found dead at his apartment late Tuesday afternoon of what was described as an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. “A rifle was discovered next to Hilinski and a suicide note was found,” the police stated in a release.
Police officers were called to the residence at 7:30 p.m. ET (4:40 p.m. local time) for a wellness check after the redshirt sophomore failed to show up for a team activity earlier in the day.
Hilinski was just 21 years old.
As of this posting, there’s been no official response from the football program regarding the passing of Hilinski. Wednesday, the university had been expected to announce the new athletic director replacing Bill Moos, Florida Atlantic’s Pat Chun; because of the football player’s death, that press conference will be rescheduled for a later date.
In place of Luke Falk, Hilinski started Wazzu’s Holiday Bowl loss to Michigan State. With Falk off to the NFL, Hilinski was expected to be the Cougars’ starting quarterback in 2018.
Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Hilinski’s way-too-early passing.
Dino Babers has added a very experienced trenchman to his Syracuse coaching staff.
The school confirmed Tuesday that Babers has hired Mike Cavanaugh as his next offensive line coach. In a coaching career that spans 32 seasons, Cavanaugh has been a line coach in some form or fashion for 31 of them.
“Mike has an outstanding track record of teaching and developing quality offensive linemen,” Babers said in a statement. “He’s done it successfully at every level in college as well as the pros. This was an opportunity to add someone whose knowledge and experience will greatly enhance our staff and benefit our players.”
The past three seasons, Cavanaugh was the line coach at Nebraska. At the FBS level, he’s also served as a line coach at Oregon State (2005-14) and Hawaii (1999-2004).
From 1997-98, Cavanaugh was the assistant offensive line coach for the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.
“I’d like to thank Coach Babers for this opportunity and for welcoming me into the Syracuse family,” Cavanaugh said. “He and his staff have coached some of the most prolific offenses in college football. I’m excited to learn from them and to be part of the championship-caliber program they are building at Syracuse.”
The 2018 season will mark the first time since 2004 Cavanaugh is not a part of a Mike Riley-coached staff.
At least in South Bend, Kevin Stepherson‘s freefall is complete.
According to 247Sports.com, Stepherson, along with three other Notre Dame football players — sophomore running backs CJ Holmes and Deon McIntosh as well as junior defensive tackle Brandon Tiassum — have been dismissed from the Fighting Irish program. No specific reason or reasons for the dismissals were given.
Stepherson was one of four Irish players who were suspended for the team’s Citrus Bowl matchup with LSU, with the wide receiver’s suspension stemming from a handful of off-field issues.
Dec. 15, Stepherson was arrested for shoplifting. The day before that arrest, Stepherson was pulled over on a traffic stop and charged with marijuana possession, driving without a valid license and speeding (he was clocked doing 80 in a 60 mph zone). To make matters worse, at the time of his twin arrests the receiver was already on probation for a marijuana-related arrest in August of 2016.
Adding to the off-field issues, Stepherson was suspended for the first four games of the 2017 season for reasons unrelated to the arrest in August of 2016.
At the time of the second suspension, Stepherson led the Fighting Irish in receiving touchdowns with five and yards per catch at 18.9 despite missing one-third of the regular season because of the first suspension. His 19 receptions and 359 receiving yards were both good for third on the team.
Another of the players who were dismissed, Holmes, was arrested along with Stepherson in the shoplifting incident. Holmes ran for 32 yards on eight carries this season.
McIntosh was the fourth of the four players suspended for the bowl game. At the time of his suspension, McIntosh was third on the team in rushing with 368 yards and five touchdowns.
Tiassum played very sparsely this past season, and wasn’t looking at much more playing time in 2018.