Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Notre Dame Football [Print without images]

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Hill: Notre Dame stumbles again

By Jemele Hill

If you recall, the Penn State child sex abuse scandal was supposed to be college football's teachable moment, because it was a case study in how unchecked power and misguided loyalty is a toxin to integrity.

While the criminality at the root of Penn State's crisis in no way compares to the evolving soap opera Notre Dame has on its hands with Manti Te'o, there are similar missteps -- namely the clumsy rush to protect the school and the team's reputation, potentially at the expense of their integrity.

Just like at Penn State, a pattern of willing cluelessness has emerged at Notre Dame.

All season, Te'o's story had been upheld as the most inspirational in college football, if not in all of sports. Te'o's story was characterized as a heartwarming fable, and it turns out a significant part of it was exactly that -- the tallest of tales.

Lennay Kekua, the loving girlfriend who supposedly died the same day as Te'o's grandmother, never existed. Kekua and Te'o's "relationship" existed only online and over the phone.

The truth is, as Te'o told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap in an off-camera interview Friday night, Te'o never even met Kekua. He has maintained that he is the victim of a hoax. Te'o admitted to reporters he "tailored" stories of his relationship -- where I'm from, that's called lying -- and despite the numerous red flags about Kekua's existence, Te'o seemed very comfortable describing their relationship as if it were a Harlequin romance.

Te'o claims he was just too ashamed to admit that he never met Kekua. But regardless of whether you believe Te'o is guilty or simply was "catfished" -- and I'll be the first to admit that I'm still having a difficult time seeing him completely as a victim -- the most bizarre sight in this entire ordeal was Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick becoming emotional as he adamantly supported Te'o at a hastily called news conference last week.

Let that sink in: An athletic director calling a news conference to explain a star linebacker's involvement with a fake dead girlfriend.

To read Jemele Hill's full column, click here.