Notre Dame encouraging Te’o to talk

Manti Te’o remains silent. Notre Dame, like most everybody else, apparently wishes he wouldn’t.

Outside of a prepared statement released by his agency, the former Heisman Trophy runner-up hasn’t spoken about the alleged hoax consuming him now, in which a California man purportedly duped Te’o into believing he had a girlfriend named Lennay Kekua who died of leukemia in September.

In a podcast published Friday morning, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick — a staunch Te’o advocate — said the school is nudging its former star linebacker to make his side public.

“I don’t have any specific knowledge as to how and when,” Swarbrick said. “But I can’t fathom a circumstance where it doesn’t. I sort of share everybody’s view that it has to happen. And we are certainly encouraging it to happen. We think it’s important and we’d like to see it happen sooner rather than later.”

Notre Dame, of course, put all its cards and heft behind Te’o on Wednesday night, after a Deadspin.com story initially broke the news of a possible hoax. Swarbrick inexorably depicted Te’o as a victim and gave a detailed account of the school’s version of events.

But Swarbrick stopped short of answering several key questions — most notably why the Te’o camp produced accounts of a face-to-face meeting with Lennay Kekua that never occurred — citing privacy concerns, among other things.

“It is in the Te’o’s family’s court,” Swarbrick said, when asked what’s next in this process. “As I tried to stress in the (Wednesday) press conference, part of what we are dealing with here is a commitment to student privacy. Generally we doin’t want to be the ones releasing information about students. We expect them to, when it’s appropriate to do it.

“And so I do think the ball’s in their court. Again, we are very much encouraging them to … (make) themselves available to explain and take questions. We think that’s in everybody’s interests. It’s our expectation at Notre Dame that they will do that. We were willing to go forward and do that and answer questions from our end and offer our support. We have every expectation he’ll do the same.”

Swarbrick said the school’s belief was that Te’o, with the help of his representation, would make the story public this coming Monday. That was before the bombshell dropped, after which “the family lost the opportunity to, in some ways, control the story,” Swarbrick said.

An ESPN report emerging Friday cited a friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the alleged mastermind behind the hoax, who said that Tuiasosopo admitted to duping Te’o and that the former Irish star was not complicit.

Regardless, Swarbrick said he accepted the skepticism that the story doesn’t yet add up fully.

“They have every right to say that,” Swarbrick said. “Now, I have some more information than they have, but they have every right to say that. I don’t feel any sort of ill will towards that position.

“If I were on the outside of this, presented with the only facts I have at this point – and importantly, as of the time we’re recording this, Manti as yet to speak publicly – I think that skepticism is easy to understand. I just ask those people to apply the same skepticism to everything about this. I have no doubt the perpitrators have a story they will yet spin about everything that went on here.”

By Brian Hamilton Tribune reporter

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

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