Manti Te’o had no involvement in the bizarre hoax involving his “dead girlfriend,” the Notre Dame star linebacker insisted to ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap in his first interview since the story broke Wednesday. In the off-camera interview conducted by Schaap on Friday night, Te’o said Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old acquaintance from California, confessed to the prank and apologized.
Since the news was first reported, numerous theories have been posited about Te’o's possible involvement in the year’s “craziest” story, including that he concocted it to help his Heisman chances (he was a finalist last year), that he knew it was a prank and perpetuated it once he figured the whole thing out and that he invented the girlfriend because he’s gay.
Te’o claimed in the interview that he was fully hoaxed. He said he never met Lennay Kekua, the woman he had an online relationship with, and acknowledged that he “tailored” his stories to make it seem as though the pair met before she died in September. Deadspin reported Wednesday that Kekua never existed.
According to ESPN, Te’o also revealed:
• He tried to speak with Kekua via Skype and FaceTime on several occasions, but the person at the other end of the line was in what he called a “black box” and wasn’t seen.
• He planned to meet Kekua in person several times, including in Los Angeles and Hawaii, but on each occasion she called off the meeting or sent others in her place.
• The first time he met Tuiasosopo was in Los Angeles. Notre Dame beat USC there on Nov. 24.
• A group of people connected to Tuiasosopo showed up at the team hotel, after curfew, for the Discover BCS National Championship Game in Miami. Te’o said he knew they were at the hotel because the group took photos in the hotel lobby. Someone in the group called Te’o, saying they were waiting for Kekua to join them in the lobby and asking if she was with him. Te’o then hung up. Te’o said it affected his play in the game, where Notre Dame lost to Alabama 42-14.
Although the two-hour interview wasn’t taped on camera, you can watch Schaap’s detailed account—plus audio snippets—of it below:
—Posted by Tracy Bloom.