CINCINNATI - It turns out Notre Dame coaches were informed in early December that Manti Te'o had an imaginary lover. They had to be stunned to find that their Heisman trophy nominee had concocted unwittingly or otherwise, a long term relationship that he said blossomed into love, admiration and hence a dreadful sense of loss when Lennay Kekua died of leukemia.
What did Notre Dame do when they got the news? They instituted an internal investigation, utilizing outside sleuths to check it out. None of which would have been divulged had it not been for the efforts of the historically salacious website, deadspin.com.
Was it as Notre Dame claims, a sick-minded hoax perpetrated on the Heisman trophy runner up? Or was it a conscious act of promotion on behalf of Te'o and his minions, trying to further burnish the golden dome? Remember the Joe Theisman legend. Originally pronounced "Thees-man," he was encouraged to alter the "I" because it resonated with Heisman. Not that it worked.
And not that any of the past bears on the current in South Bend, Ind., but that said, what prevented Jack Swarbrick and company from coming clean almost a month ago? Were they afraid it would be a distraction as they played for a national championship? Seems that perpetuating the hoax worked at cross purposes to that end. Te'o played like he was at death's door against Alabama.
And wouldn't you think that an out front guy like Brian Kelly, well as out front as he can be, would have at least nudged toward the front of this issue by now and come to Te'o's defense? If he had any eligibility left, I'd say we'd have heard from him by now. It all goes to the root of image, and brand and mystique. And can be one slippery slope.