Notre Dame president defends handling of Te'o case
Heisman finalists linebacker Manti Te'o of the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish speaks during a press conference prior to the 78th Heisman Trophy Presentation at the Marriott Marquis on December 8, 2012 in New York City. / Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images
SOUTH BEND, Ind. Top administrators at Notre Dame decided within hours of hearing about the Manti Te'o dead girlfriend hoax that it did not involve a crime and within two days had concluded there was no NCAA violation, according to a letter sent by the university president to board of trustee members on Friday.
The Rev. John Jenkins told trustees that despite "the unrelenting scrutiny of hundreds of journalists and countless others and repeated attempts by some to create a different impression- no facts relating to the hoax have been at odds with what Manti told us" on Dec. 27-28.
The letter was obtained Friday by The Associated Press from a university official who provided it on condition of anonymity because the private school's internal workings are confidential.
The eight-page document, including a four-page letter from Jenkins and a four-page outline of how Notre Dame handled the hoax, is both a defense and an explanation of the school's actions.
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"We did our best to get to the truth in extraordinary circumstances, be good stewards of the interests of the university and its good name and as we do in all things to make the well-being of our students one of our very highest priorities," Jenkins concluded in his letter.
Some of the timeline Notre Dame outlined is well known, including that its star linebacker disclosed the scam to his coaches the day after Christmas and it remained unknown to the public until Deadspin.com broke the story on Jan. 16, long after the Fighting Irish lost the BCS championship to Alabama on Jan. 7.
Jenkins wrote that Notre Dame officials talked in the hours after hearing from Te'o on Dec. 26 and agreed there was no indication of a crime or student conduct code violation. Athletic director Jack Swarbrick spoke with Te'o the next day, and on Dec. 28 the school concluded there were no indications of an NCAA rules violation, which could have put Notre Dame's 12-0 regular season in jeopardy.
The school then made moves to find out who was behind the hoax, thereby protecting Te'o and itself.
"For the first couple of days after receiving the news from Manti, there was considerable confusion and we simply did not know what there was to disclose," Jenkins wrote.
On Jan. 2, after several days of internal discussion and a week after Te'o's disclosure, Notre Dame retained Stroz Friedberg, a New York computer forensics firm to investigate the case and whether any other football players had been targeted. The firm did not return phone or email messages left Friday.
Notre Dame officials believed Te'o's girlfriend whether alive or dead was at least a real person until the next day, when Stroz Friedberg said it could not find any evidence that Kekua or most of her relatives ever existed. And by Jan. 4, two days after hiring Stroz Friedberg, Notre Dame officials concluded Te'o was the victim of the hoax, there was no threat to the school and the private investigation was suspended.
"We concluded that this matter was personal to Manti," Jenkins wrote, deciding it was up to Te'o to disclose, especially after he signed with Creative Artists Agency on the day after the BCS game.
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