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.”

Three former Pac-12 refs blast Larry Scott in private letter over Woodie Dixon scandal

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Eventually, the Bad News Train tearing a hole up and down the West Coast will eventually come to a stop. Until that day arrives, though, that train just keeps on truckin’.

The latest incident arrives from the San Jose Mercury-News, where Jon Wilner — the Woodward to The Oregonian‘s Bernstein, with embattled commissioner Larry Scott serving as Richard Nixon in this metaphor — has the published a letter written by three former Pac-12 officials blasting the commissioner over his handling of the Pac-12’s officiating scandal.

As you’ll recall, last fall it was revealed that Pac-12 general counsel Woodie Dixon remotely intervened to incorrectly overturn a targeting call in favor of USC during the Trojans’ 3-point win over Washington State in late September. Scott said the incident was an isolated one and then triggered a comprehensive review of the league’s officiating process, but three refs have stepped forward to rebuke Scott, saying he’s looking at the wrong people.

The trio — Chuck CzubinFred Gallagher and Mack Gilchrist — have more than a century as Pac-12 refs between them, and in December they sent a letter to Scott and Pac-12 vice president of officiating David Coleman. They then sent the email to Wilner last month and to Pac-12 ADs Ray Anderson (Arizona State), Rob Mullens (Oregon), Scott Barnes (Oregon State), and Rick George (Colorado) three days after they sent it to Wilner; Wilner published it today. On the Dixon incident, the group writes:

Mr. Scott, you know from personal experience this is not the first time he has overstepped his bounds…. Woodie singlehandedly caused the exit of the former Supervisor of Officials, and it is well known that several years ago he wanted to fire the gentleman who is now your Replay Supervisor. After the latest incident there is no question the Conference was far more interested in covering this up and finding the source of the info, rather than dealing with Woodie. You did so by removing a very valuable training tool for IR (instant replay). In your blind and bumbled approach you hid our reports and grades. This info had previously been transparent, which allowed IR to confer within itself…. Instead of dropping the hammer on Woodie you dropped it on IR. 

The Pac-12 declined to comment on the letter, but Scott himself responded to Czubin, Gallagher and Gilchrist on March 5. “[W]e are always seeking new ways to improve our program, and have recently made the decision to hire an outside expert to initiate a review of our football officiating program. The review will include assessments of many of the areas you highlight in your letter, and will definitely take into account feedback from officials,” he wrote. The conference announced it had hired Sibson Consulting to examine its refereeing program on Feb. 23.

If further reporting details that Dixon has intervened on more games than just last year’s Wazzu-USC game and Scott was aware of it, it would call into question the integrity of Pac-12 football itself under Scott’s watch, and the commissioner’s tenure may then follow the footsteps of Nixon’s all the way out the door.

Injured former Southern WR Devon Gales lands job as Georgia HS coach

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Devon Gales is back in football. The Southern wide receiver, who was paralyzed during a 2015 game at Georgia, will join the staff as an assistant coach at Jefferson High School in Georgia, according WDUN-AM.

Gales has remained in Georgia since the injury, transferring from an Athens hospital to an Atlanta rehabilitation facility soon after the collision that left him unable to move his extremities. He was released from the hospital five months later, and Georgia fans helped fund a handicapped-accessible home for him and his family in Jefferson, Ga., a town 20 miles north of Athens, where the family has lived since July.

Gales spoke to the Jefferson High School senior class, which led Jefferson superintendent Dr. John Jackson to invite Gales to join the staff.

“It was brought to our attention upon meeting this wonderful family that Devon missed the game and practices and being part of a football team in the game he still loved so much,” Jefferson coach Gene Cathcart told WDUN. “Dr. John Jackson had the idea of getting him involved in our program in some way and how our young men would benefit from his living example, character, strength in facing adversity and perseverance.”

 

Mississippi State offensive lineman arrested for numerous traffic violations

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In the SEC, it just means more… traffic tickets.

At least that’s the case for Mississippi State offensive lineman Tommy Champion, who was arrested by the school’s police department for a litany of traffic violations that far exceed his accomplishments on the field.

Per the Clarion Ledger, Champion hit the trifecta of driving with an expired tag, an expired license and no insurance. He faces as much as six months-worth of jail time as a result, a $1,000 fine and his license further being suspended for up to a year according to the paper.

A backup offensive tackle, Champion arrived in Starkville after a stop in junior college and redshirted his first year with the team. He was a reserve last season and was expected to add depth along the line for Joe Moorhead’s squad again in 2019.

The news of Champion’s arrest comes just as the Bulldogs were starting spring practice back up this week.

Tennessee DB Kenneth George Jr. arrested after reportedly punching police officer

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Attention in Tennessee is largely focused on the Vols basketball team this month but somehow the Power T’s football squad managed to find a way to steal more than a few headlines on Thursday.

And not in a good way for those back in Knoxville.

Redshirt junior defensive back Kenneth George Jr. was arrested in Miami Beach early on Thursday morning according to local station WPLG 10. However he wasn’t just picked up by police for anything you would normally associate with spring break in South Florida…no, he was arrested and charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting an officer with violence, resisting an officer without violence and disorderly conduct.

Per WPLG:

“Police said George was cursing at one of the officers and ignoring his commands. As the officer tried to get him out of the street, George punched him and knocked the police radio out of his hands, the report said.

George then ran away before other officers caught up with him near Espanola Way and Washington Avenue, the report said.

According to the report, once in custody, George said, “He hit me first. Why can’t I hit him back?”

So far the school has not made any concrete statement beyond saying they are gathering facts on the story but we’re guessing that George’s days with the Vols are limited as a result of his actions. The Louisiana native is a junior college transfer into the program but missed most of last season with an injury.