Handout photo of Manti Te'o during an interview with ESPN in Bradenton

Katie Couric lands TV interview with Manti Te’o


Manti Te’o broke his silence on the Lennay Kekua hoax story Friday night in an off-camera interview with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap. The interview, over two hours long, still provoked many questions about the hoax and Te’o is no better off today in terms of clarifying his own story than he was before the interview.

Maybe Round 2 will work.

The New York Times reports that Te’o will sit down on camera with Katie Couric during her show “Katie” on Thursday to answer questions about the hoax. He’ll be joined by his parents, Brian and Ottilia.

The Times adds that Oprah Winfrey, who recently interviewed Lance Armstrong, also requested to interview Te’o. If anyone’s wondering why Couric was able to grab Te’o on camera, the fact both are represented by CAA might have something to do with it.

ESPN releases edited transcript of Manti Te’o interview

Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o speaks with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap as his attorney looks on in Florida in this handout photo

Last night in an off-camera interview, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o spoke to ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap about the Lennay Kekua hoax. The interview went over two hours and details of Te’o’s story began coming out around midnight.

Te’o denied having any role in the hoax — Kekua, Te’o’s girlfriend, supposedly passed away last September only to suddenly and surprisingly re-emerge in Te’o’s life on Dec. 6 through a phone call —  but did admit he tailored the story of his relationship with Kekua to suggest that they had met in person when in fact they had not.

The interview left plenty of questions unanswered and definitely raised quite a few more. The few facts that this bizarre story does have are still convoluted.

ESPN posted an edited transcript of the conversation. You can view it HERE. It is far, far too long to even begin to try to break down. As with everything else in this story, we encourage you to read it and decide for yourself.

As a reference, here’s the original Deadspin story.

Updated: Manti Te’o admits ‘catering’ his stories about Kekua

Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o speaks with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap as his attorney looks on in Florida in this handout photo

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.

Notre Dame: Manti Te’o victim of a hoax

Michigan v Notre Dame

There are bizarre stories, then there’s, well, this.

Back in mid-September it was reported that the grandmother and girlfriend of Notre Dame All-American Manti Te’o had died within hours of each other, the latter (Lennay Kekua) after a courageous battle with leukemia.  As the Irish continued what would be a stunning run to the BCS championship game, Te’o’s triumph over personal tragedy became an inspirational theme woven into the fabric of the 2012 college football season.

It was by all accounts heartbreaking and inspirational and, according to Deadspin.com, it was also a lie.

In a lengthy piece published by the website Tuesday, Deadspin declares that “Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax.”  While it would be impossible to even begin to summarize the baffling story, this paragraph fairly encapsulates what the website is claiming:

There was no Lennay Kekua. Lennay Kekua did not meet Manti Te’o after the Stanford game in 2009. Lennay Kekua did not attend Stanford. Lennay Kekua never visited Manti Te’o in Hawaii. Lennay Kekua was not in a car accident. Lennay Kekua did not talk to Manti Te’o every night on the telephone. She was not diagnosed with cancer, did not spend time in the hospital, did not engage in a lengthy battle with leukemia. She never had a bone marrow transplant. She was not released from the hospital on Sept. 10, nor did Brian Te’o congratulate her for this over the telephone. She did not insist that Manti Te’o play in the Michigan State or Michigan games, and did not request he send white flowers to her funeral. Her favorite color was not white. Her brother, Koa, did not inform Manti Te’o that she was dead. Koa did not exist. Her funeral did not take place in Carson, Calif., and her casket was not closed at 9 a.m. exactly. She was not laid to rest.

It’s a fascinatingly disturbing read, and we strongly urge you to plow through the lengthy piece in its entirety HERE.  It’s not, however, the end of the story.  Far from it, in fact.

In response to Deadspin‘s story, Notre Dame released a statement claiming that, in essence, Te’o was the victim of a hoax:

On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.

Te’o has not issued a statement on the story, which is rapidly becoming one of the most baffling and head-scratching stories of the year.

UPDATED 6:32 p.m. ET: Subsequent to the initial posting, Te’o has released a statement addressing this situation as well.  Here it is, in its entirety.

“This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.

“To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.

“It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.

“I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.

“In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.

“Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.”

College football awards tracker: Manti Te’o wins Maxwell Award

Manti Te'o

With the exception of this weekend’s Army-Navy game, the 2012 regular season is over.

Went by quickly didn’t it?

Now it’s time to hand out some hardware. The Heisman Trophy will be presented this Saturday — here’s a LINK to the finalists in case you missed it — but tonight is the Home Depot College Football Awards Show.

Some awards have already been handed out. Manti Te’o won the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award earlier this evening, becoming only the third defensive player ever to receive it. That makes four awards for Te’o already (Butkus, Camp, Lombardi, Nagurski). Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein has already received the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert won the Mackey Award. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney won the Hendricks Award and Alabama offensive lineman Barrett Jones took home the Campbell Trophy for outstanding scholar-athlete.

We’ll have the list of award winners tonight as they come in, so be sure to check back throughout the night.

Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year)
Manti Te’o, Sr. Notre Dame

Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award (Nation’s Best Quarterback): 
Johnny Manziel, Fr. Texas A&M

Jim Thorpe Award (Nation’s Outstanding Defensive Back):
Johnthan Banks, Sr. Mississippi State

Biletnikoff Award (Nation’s Outstanding Receiver):
Marqise Lee, So. USC

Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award (Nation’s Outstanding Placekicker):
Cairo Santos, Jr. Tulane

Chuck Bednarik Award (College Defensive Player of the Year):
Manti Te’o, Sr. Notre Dame

Outland Trophy (Nation’s Outstanding Interior Lineman):
Luke Joeckel, Jr. Texas A&M

Doak Walker Award (Nation’s Outstanding Running Back):
Montee Ball, Sr. Wisconsin

Ray Guy Award (Nation’s Outstanding Punter)
Ryan Allen, La Tech