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Te'o follows AD's advice, breaks silence on hoax

Manti Te'o broke his silence late Friday night when the Notre Dame All-American linebacker agreed to an off-camera interview with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap to address the dead girlfriend hoax.

Te'o said he formed a romatic relationship with a woman named Lennay Kekua, and that his girlfriend died in September, just hours after his grandmother.

Te'o spoke with Schaap in Florida, where he is training for the NFL draft at the IMG Academy in Bradenton.

Te'o was accompanied by a lawyer during the interview, according to a photo David Scott, director of communications for ESPN's news content, posted on his Twitter account.

ESPN planned to broadcast portions of the interview later on "SportsCenter" and provide details of the interview on its website.

A story published Wednesday on Deadspin.com revealed that Kekua, whose fake death after a battle with leukemia became a feel-good story this season as Te'o rose above the tragedy to lead the Irish to the BCS champioship game, never existed.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said the university had investigated and found Te'o to be the victim of a hoax after the player informed the coaching staff of the situation on Dec. 26.

Since the story broke, there have been plenty of skeptics about the linebacker's story.

On a podcast on Notre Dame's website Friday, Swarbrick said he understood why people were skeptical and advised Te'o to address the situation.

"They have every right to say that," Swarbrick said. "Now I have some more information than they have. But they have every right to say that. I don't feel any sort of ill will toward that position. … I just ask those people to apply the same skepticism to everything about this. I have no doubt the perpetrators have a story they will yet spin about what went on here. I hope skepticism also greets that when they're articulating what that is."

On the podcast of Swarbrick's radio show, which airs today, the athletic director said the Te'o family planned to address the hoax this coming Monday, but that plan fell apart after Deadspin's story was published Wednesday.

"Sometimes the best-laid plans don't quite work, and this was an example of that. Because the family lost the opportunity in some ways to control the story," Swarbrick said.

The story took another strange turn Friday when the Honolulu Star-Advertiser posted a story on its website, saying a source close to the Te'o family told the paper that a woman, whose voice Te'o associated with Kekua, told the linebacker she had to fake her death to elude drug dealers when she called him to try and restart the relationship in December.

During a Wednesday news conference, Swarbrick said Te'o received a call from a woman claiming to be Kekua on Dec. 6 when he was at an ESPN postseason award show in Orlando, Fla. Te'o spoke of his girlfriend on at least two occasions after Dec. 6.

Also on Friday, a report on ESPN.com said a church friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the California man being identified as the mastermind of the fraud, said Tuiasosopo admitted in December to being behind the scheme.

tkrausz@jg.net

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