Notre Dame: Manti Te’o victim of a hoax

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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.”

Oklahoma could pull off rare feat in 2019 NFL Draft

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On Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee, the NFL Draft will kick off a three-day event that bridges the gap between college football and the NFL on an annual basis. The Arizona Cardinals will have the No. 1 pick in the draft and there is a possibility Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray could be the top pick of the draft. If that proves to be the case, then the Sooners will pull off one of the rarest feats in the NFL Draft by having the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft two years in a row.

Last year saw Baker Mayfield leave Oklahoma to be the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft of the Cleveland Browns. If Murray is selected as the first player overall by the Cardinals (or any other team that moves up to the top spot), it will mark the first time since 1968 and 1969 when the top pick in the draft was selected out of the same school in consecutive seasons. USC’s Ron Yary was the top pick of the 1968 draft by the Minnesota Vikings, and running back O.J. Simpson was the top pick of the draft by the Buffalo Bills the following season. That remains the first and only time the top picks in consecutive drafts have come from the same school.

If Murray does go first overall, some history will also be made that will separate this feat from the one previously accomplished by USC. This would also mark the first time two Heisman Trophy winners from the same school have been selected with the top pick in the draft in consecutive seasons. Granted, it hasn’t been too often the same school had back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners, to begin with, not to mention having two within the same four or five-year period, but it’s been a good couple of years for the Sooners with Mayfield and Murray.

It’s also worth a reminder both Mayfield and Murray were transfer players as well, adding another layer to the improbability of the rare milestone Oklahoma is potentially in line to pull off this week. Naturally, this would be quite a piece of recruiting propaganda for Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, who was named head coach of the Sooners just two years ago following the retirement of Bob Stoops.

Greg Sankey affirms support for 4-team playoff format

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The College Football Playoff was founded and remains controlled by the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences. For those looking to move the 4-team format to eight, the thinking went that the old guard (emphasis on old) in the form of Mike SliveJim Delany and John Swofford would eventually move on, and their younger predecessors would see how much money could be made by expanding the playoff, and then expand the playoff.

Slive, of course, retired in 2015 (he passed away in 2018), Delany will step down next year, and Swofford is 70. After the ACC Network gets up and running later this year, perhaps he’ll step down, allowing three of the five big chairs — and, let’s be honest, the three biggest of the five big chairs — will have changed hands from the Playoff’s 2012 creation to negotiations for the second contract. (The current contract expires after the 2025 season.)

One problem, though: one of those predecessors likes the Playoff as is.

Speaking at an APSE event in Birmingham on Monday, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey affirmed his support for the 4-team format.

The SEC is the least incentivized of the Power 5 conferences to change the status quo, because the status quo works for them. Along with the ACC, the SEC is the only conference to go 5-for-5 in placing teams in the field, and really the SEC is 6-for-5 given that Georgia and Alabama reached the Playoff in 2017, the only season to date in which one conference has occupied the four coveted spots.

The counter to this point is that it was the LSU vs. Alabama championship game that was the straw that killed the BCS’s back.

However, the counter to that counter was that Slive was on board to kill the BCS and berth the CFP. Never before in college football’s history of evolving postseason formats has change been brought against the SEC’s wishes, and that’s unlikely to change… now or in 2025.

North Carolina LB Kyle Wright plunges into transfer portal

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North Carolina linebacker Kyle Wright will leave Chapel Hill and pursue a graduate transfer, the player has announced.

“For the sake of having some dignity, I would like to announce that I will be entering the NCAA Transfer Portal,” he wrote on Twitter. “In doing so, I leave behind friendships and teammates that I will never forget. I appreciate you all.”

A Blythewood, S.C., native, Wright signed with North Carolina in 2018 and spent just one season in Chapel Hill. He appeared in four games, making one tackle against Georgia Tech, before using the year as a redshirt.

As an undergraduate transfer, Wright would have to sit out the 2019 campaign and compete in 2020 as a redshirt sophomore, barring a waiver.

Marshall, Western Michigan line up future series

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It’s been a long time since Marshall and Western Michigan were in the same conference, but the two will be reunited on the football field soon enough. No, we’re not talking about conference realignment, but future non-conference scheduling!

The two schools announced a future home-and-home series for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. Marshall will host the first game of the deal on Sept. 14, 2024. Western Michigan will host the second game on Sept. 6, 2025. The two schools have not squared off against each other since Marshall left the MAC for Conference USA in 2005, but Western Michigan leads the all-time series 22-12.

Western Michigan will also play Cincinnati in non-conference play in 2024 and will travel t two Big Ten opponents in 20205 (Michigan State and Illinois).

Marshall has road trips to Liberty and Virginia Tech scheduled in 2024 in addition to the new home game against the Broncos. In 2025, Marshall will host East Carolina a week after visiting Western Michigan.