Rand: Five questions surrounding Te'o 'girlfriend' hoax

  • Updated: January 17, 2013 - 8:58 PM

Manti Te'o has some explaining to do about his fabricated girlfriend, and the sooner the better.

We've had a full day to digest this Manti Te'o story, and a lot of us still aren't sure exactly what we've swallowed. At this point, there are a lot more questions than answers about the hoax surrounding his alleged girlfriend -- including these five:

1. Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick confirmed in his news conference Wednesday night that Te'o and "Lennay Kekua" never actually met in person. Even in the virtual world we live in here in 2013, call someone your "girlfriend" or "boyfriend" if you had never actually met them in person? That's hard to fathom.

2. Did Notre Dame botch how it handled the situation? According to Swarbrick, Te'o became suspicious of the hoax on Dec. 6. He told coaches about it on Dec. 26. And the school received a final report from an investigation on Jan. 4. All of this happened before the BCS title game, though nothing was said. All of this happened almost two full weeks before Deadspin.com broke the story. Swarbrick said he was told Te'o and his reps "were on a timetable to release the story themselves next week when today's story broke." We have to imagine Notre Dame and Te'o were holding on to the story -- and holding out hope.

3. Does Te'o look worse the longer he remains silent? Early Thursday, Yahoo's Pat Forde reported that ESPN's Jeremy Schaap had landed an interview with Te'o. Later in the day, that was shot down. And so Thursday played out without comment from the one person who can attempt to provide ultimate clarity in this whole sordid story. There is no presumption here that Te'o knew more about this -- and was perhaps complicit in it -- but it doesn't take long to tell a true story. It does take longer to get your story straight.

4. Should journalists have known better? A fair critique is whether the countless writers who told the story of Te'o and his girlfriend should have fact-checked better to discover inconsistencies. Poynter.org interviewed Deadspin editor Tommy Craggs, who had a practical answer that reads, in part: "If I'm a beat guy and I have 500 words to file after practice ... and the best player on the team has just told me a story about his dear, departed girlfriend, I'm not going to go spelunking through SSA [Social Security Administration] death records. ... I have less sympathy for the folks who crafted those painstaking 'Love Story'-in-cleats feature stories."

5. Will this story impact Te'o's draft status? Oh, right, football. Part of the reason we care so much about this story, aside from the absurdity, is that Te'o is a star player. The linebacker finished second in the Heisman race. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. projects Te'o as the No. 8 overall pick in the April NFL draft. Plenty of experts say this won't impact where he is chosen. But NFL Draft writer Matt Miller tweeted this: "NFL exec. this morning, 'We'll draft criminals, but lie to my face and you're off our board.' Some don't believe Te'o's story." Ultimately his play will be a bigger factor, but you never know.

MICHAEL RAND

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