Notre Dame`s Manti Te`o claims to be victim of elaborate hoax - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Notre Dame`s Manti Te`o claims to be victim of elaborate hoax

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Notre Dame says a story about Manti Te'o's girlfriend dying, which he said inspired him to play better as he helped the Fighting Irish get to the BCS title game, turned out to be a hoax apparently perpetrated against the linebacker.

PHOTOS: Twitter erupts with Manti T'eo jokes, memes, Te'oing

Notre Dame's Athletic Director held a news conference to tackle the situation head-on after it broke on the sports website DeadSpin.com Wednesday afternoon.

One thing that's being discussed on Sports Radio and Twitter is whether Te'o played some role in the hoax to raise his profile for the Heisman Trophy.

Jack Swarbick, Notre Dame's Athletic Director, said that's not the case.

"Manti was the victim of that hoax, Manti is the victim of that hoax," Swarbick said.

Swarbick says the university became aware of the scam after Manti Te'o got a call on December 6th from the phone number he associated with a woman he met on line named Lennay Kekua--who he thought had died last fall after a car accident and then a battle with cancer.

"When he answered it, it was a person who sounded like the same voice he had talked to, who told him she was in fact not dead," Swarbick explained.

Te'o, Notre Dame's standout linebacker, who led the team to the national championship game and finished second in the Heisman voting, issued a statement saying, "to realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."

During the season, Te'o made it sound like he had met the woman in person after a game at Stanford. Reports during the season indicated he talked for hours on the phone while she was in the hospital. This fall he talked about Kekua.

"One day she made me promise that if anything happens to me ‘you'll stay over there, and that you'll play and that you'll honor me through the way you play,'" Te'o said.

Now, it's become clear the woman never existed except online. Te'o was a victim of something called catfishing, where fake identities are created online, and unsuspecting victims suckered in.

Notre Dame alumni, and former Bear Tom Thayer says shame on those who suspect Te'o was part of the hoax.

"It seems like this is the perfect time to pile on Manti Te'o," Thayer said. "Hopefully the cream will rise to the top and he'll answer the bell."

Jack Swarbick broke down as he reflected on what he called the saddest part of this story.

"That the single most trusting human being that I have ever met, will never be able to trust in the same way in his life, that's an incredible tragedy," Swarbick said.

Manti Te'o is expected to address the media, possibly as soon as Thursday. In a statement released Wednesday night, he said, "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."

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