The linear timeline of the twisted tale of Manti Te'o's relationship with the fictional Lennay Kekua will hopefully bring some clarity to a blurry picture.
In case you've somehow managed to miss what promises to be one of the more jaw-dropping stories of the year, Deadspin's Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey released a story detailing that Kekua never existed.
The thing that makes this bizarre detail even more noteworthy is the fact that Te'o was leading Notre Dame to an undefeated season while having to endure the well-publicized loss of his grandmother and girlfriend within hours of each other.
However, in the article by Burke and Dickey, they quote a friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who is suspected of being the one behind Kekua's Twitter account, as saying, "he was '80 percent sure'" that Te'o knew what was going on.
So, let's jump into the timeline to add some reality to this crazy fiction.
Nov. 28, 2009
A story from the South Bend Tribune's Eric Hansen from Oct. 12, 2012, details how the two met. It is important to note that the source of information for this alleged meeting was not attributed.
The story maintains that the two met after Stanford's 45-38 victory over Notre Dame in Palo Alto, Calif.
Hansen adds that "Kekua was a Stanford student and Cardinal football fan," when the two met and that they exchanged phone numbers at that time.
However, as the Deadspin story points out, Te'o posted a conflicting tweet to the story of their meeting:
@lovalovaloveyou nice to meet u too ma'am— Manti Te'o (@MTeo_5) October 10, 2011
@lovalovaloveyou is the Twitter handle that was used for the fictional Kekua, and that tweet certainly leads one to believe the two met sometime around Te'o's above tweet.
Manti's father, Brian, was under the belief that his son would meet Kekua while Manti was visiting his family's home in Hawaii. Here is a quote from Brian in Hansen's article:
"Every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there."
In a story by ESPN's Matt Fortuna, he notes that eight months before she passed—which was believed to be in September—that Kekua was in a life-threatening car crash.
Hansen's Tribune article notes that this was "about the time" when the two "became a couple," and that during her recovery from the accident, she encountered "complications." This was also when Kekua was said to have been diagnosed with leukemia.
Hansen's story passed along this quote from Brian Te'o, on the discovery of leukemia:
That was just in June. I remember Manti telling me later she was going to have a bone marrow transplant and, sure enough, that's exactly what happened. From all I knew, she was doing really, really well.
Sept. 10-12, 2012
Hansen informs us that Kekua had graduated from Stanford, and that she was in good enough health to be "released from the hospital on Sept. 10." He mentions that Brian Te'o congratulated her over the phone.
Then, "less than 48 hours" after she was released, Brian and his wife, Ottilia, received a text from Kekua "expressing her condolences over the passing of Ottilia's mom."
It was just "a couple of hours" after that text was sent when Manti called his parents with "his heart in pieces." Manti was calling to tell them that Kekua had passed away.
Sept. 15, 2012: The Michigan State Game
On Sept. 15, Te'o and the Fighting Irish took on Michigan State. Despite the loss of his grandmother and supposedly his girlfriend just days earlier, Te'o played. He finished the game with 12 tackles.
This is Te'o after that game:
That game was a huge moment in Te'o's ascent into the thick of the race for the Heisman Trophy.
Sept. 22, 2012: The Michigan Game
In the following week's game—which, as Fortuna points out, was allegedly the night of Kekua's funeral—Te'o came up huge against Michigan, as he recorded two interceptions and forced a fumble.
Fortuna noted that "Kekua made Te'o promise he would not leave Notre Dame should anything happen to her."
With Notre Dame climbing in the polls, Te'o making game-changing plays left and right and the heart-wrenching story of Te'o persevering through such tremendous loss, the middle linebacker was the talk of college football.
In the article by Fortuna, dated Nov. 13, it is mentioned that the original plan was that Te'o's family was going to meet their son's girlfriend for the first time that following Saturday. This would have been Nov. 17, when Notre Dame hosted Wake Forest.
Notre Dame's athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, spoke on this messy hoax during a press conference. The New York Times' Steve Eder paraphrased this from Swarbrick:
Te’o received a phone call in early December from a number that he thought to be Kekua’s. The voice on the phone was one he had believed to be hers, Swarbrick said, and the person was telling Te’o that she was not dead. Te’o and his family told the university about the situation on Dec. 26, Swarbrick said, at which point Notre Dame asked an independent investigative company to look into the matter.
Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune pulled out an interesting quote given the insight of Swarbick's timeline:
Manti Te'o on 12/8, 2 days after hoaxers call again: "I don't like cancer at all. I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer."— Brian Hamilton (@ChiTribHamilton) January 17, 2013
#NotreDame AD Jack Swarbrick said hoaxers re-contacted Manti Te'o while he was in Orlando on Dec. 6. That quote is from Dec. 8.— Brian Hamilton (@ChiTribHamilton) January 17, 2013
Jan. 3, 2013
Leading up to Notre Dame's showdown with Alabama for the national championship, Te'o was asked about his girlfriend. CBS News provides his answer:
This team is very special to me, and the guys on it have always been there for me, through the good times and the bad times. I rarely have a quiet time to myself because I always have somebody calling me, asking, "Do you want to go to the movies?" Coach is always calling me asking me, "Are you OK? Do you need anything?"
Jan. 4, 2013
This is a key date since, according to Swarbrick, this is when the details of the hoax came to light. Again, Hamilton tweeted the info:
#NotreDame used independent investigator, received final report on Jan. 4, per AD Swarbrick.— Brian Hamilton (@ChiTribHamilton) January 17, 2013
Jan. 7, 2013: The National Championship Game
Notre Dame was demolished by Alabama, 42-14. Te'o played a sloppy game and whiffed on several tackles.
Prior to the game, the enormity of this tale was aired on CBS This Morning:
Jan. 16, 2013
So, that brings us to Wednesday, Jan. 16, which is when the Deadspin story broke and the ensuing statements by Te'o and Notre Dame were released and Swarbrick held his press conference.
This story has raised questions at every turn, and it might just be in its infancy.
Jan. 18-19, 2013
Friday evening, ESPN's Josh Krulewitz announced that Te'o would be conducting an off-camera interview with ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap. It wasn't immediately clear what would be discussed, or why the interview was being held off camera, but tuned-in fans were prepared to listen once the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks concluded their basketball game on ESPN.
You can check out Schaap's words here:
Schaap's report didn't disappoint. ESPN.com released a few of the talk's finer points in their initial report. He started, when asked if he was involved, by saying ""I wasn't faking it. I wasn't part of this."
He also claimed that ""When (people) hear the facts, they'll know. They'll know that there is no way that I could be part of this."
Some of the facts that were divulged were as follows:
He lied to his father about having met Kekua, prompting his father to tell reporters that the two had met. Several media stories indicated that he and Kekua had met. Te'o insisted they never did.
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.
The first time he met Tuiasosopo was after Notre Dame beat USC on Nov. 24. Tuiasosopo is the man Deadspin and others have said was behind the hoax. Earlier Friday, ESPN's "Outside The Lines" reported that Tuiasosopo called a church friend in early December crying and admitted to duping Te'o. The friend, a woman in her mid-20s, agreed to be interviewed under the condition that she not be identified, saying she was fearful for her family's safety because of the overwhelming publicity the story has generated.
A group of people, including a woman claiming to be Kekua, showed up at the team hotel 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 lobby of the hotel. Te'o said it affected his play in the game, where Notre Dame lost to Alabama 42-14.
The name Tuisasopo refers to Ronaiah Tuisasopo, the man who orchestrated the hoax. According to Chicago Tribune reporter Brian Hamilton though, three people were behind the hoax in all:
Manti Te'o to ESPN: ""Two guys and a girl are responsible for the whole thing...According to Ronaiah, Ronaiah's one."— Brian Hamilton (@ChiTribHamilton) January 19, 2013
Even though he didn't realize that this was a hoax, Te'o did realize how crazy it could sound to most people (via Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel):
"… I knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody I didn't meet … so I kind of tailored my stories to have people think" he'd met her.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) January 19, 2013
It's also worth noting two more details that occurred during the actual relationship. For one, after Te'o's grandmother died on September 12, he got into an argument with Kekua and was later told that she died (via ESPN's Brett McMurphy):
Te'o said on Sept. 12 after grandmother died he got in argument on phone w/Kekua.Later that day, he was told Kekua had died— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) January 19, 2013
But, then the details get sort of weird again. It's hard to imagine that Te'o wasn't duped in this strange situation, but, as Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel points out, Te'o claimed that he wasn't convinced that she didn't exist until two days ago:
WHOA. Schaap: Te'o was not fully convinced the girl didn't exist until TWO DAYS AGO, when Tuiasasopo called and apologized.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) January 19, 2013
Within that time frame, according to Chicago Tribune reporter Brian Hamilton, Tuiasosopo called to apologize:
Manti Te'o told ESPN Ronaiah Tuiasosopo called two days ago to apologize for executing Lennay Kekua hoax on him.— Brian Hamilton (@ChiTribHamilton) January 19, 2013
Mandel points out that the perpetrator also apologized via Twitter:
Schaap says Tuiasosopo confessed/apologized over Twitter messaging, and that Te'o showed him the messages.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) January 19, 2013
There are a few other things worth noting here as well. Chicago Tribune reporter Brian Hamilton mentioned that this hoax did impact Te'o during the BCS National Championship game versus Alabama.
But, according to Sports Illustrated reporter Richard Deitsch, Te'o did move on to a point:
Schaap said Te'o told him he had a girlfriend this fall after Lennay Kekua died. If so, she'll be interviewed soon enough.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) January 19, 2013
It's hard to figure out this situation completely. It appears that Te'o was the victim of his own naivete, but it could have been worse.
Like ESPN's Brett McMurphy points out, at least he didn't loan his supposed girlfriend any money:
Te'o never asked for money during plot, but Kekua once requested his checking account number to send him money. Te'o didn't provide it— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) January 19, 2013
Predicting where this thing will go next is difficult. An interview with Te'o's most-recent girlfriend isn't inconceivable, and more details could surface in the coming days.
Either way, Schaap's interview was enlightening.
For the latest on this ongoing saga, please check here for any news and updates.