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                    === Notre Dame: Te'o victim of hoax ===
 
 South  Bend, IN  (Sports Network)  - The  Notre Dame  athletic department  has
 issued  a  statement responding to an internet report that is claiming details
 of star linebacker Manti Te'o's personal life have been fabricated.
 
 The  discrepancy  involves Te'o's former  girlfriend Lennay Marie Kekua, whose
 widely  reported death  from leukemia  in  September helped  make the  Heisman
 Trophy  runner-up one  of  college football's  most  recognizable and  popular
 players  of this past season. However, a story posted Wednesday on the website
 Deadspin.com has alleged that such a person actually never existed.
 
 According  to  the site,  there are no  Social Security Administration records
 confirming  that a Lennay Marie Kekua, previously reported to be a 22-year-old
 Stanford  student  by several media  outlets, actually died. Additionally, the
 Stanford  registrar's office  has no enrollment  records of  Kekua, nor  could
 Deadspin uncover any official announcements of either her birth or obituary.
 
 A  Sports  Illustrated story published in  October stated that Kekua died less
 than  24 hours  after the passing of Te'o's grandmother, Annette Santiago, who
 did  in fact perish  on Sept. 11, with Te'o helping lead the Fighting Irish to
 an inspirational victory over rival Michigan on the day of Kekua's funeral.
 
 Deadspin also reported that pictures purported to be of Kekua that appeared on
 the  internet and  used by the media  were actually of a California woman whom
 the site would not identify.
 
 A  statement from  Notre Dame released on Wednesday stated that the university
 was  informed by Te'o and his family that the All-American linebacker, who had
 referenced  the story about the relationship with his girlfriend and her death
 on  several  occasions, had been deceived  by someone claiming to be Kekua and
 misled to believe she had died of leukemia.
 
 "On  Dec. 26,  Notre Dame coaches were  informed by Manti Te'o and his parents
 that  Manti had been  the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone
 using  the  fictitious name  Lennay Kekua  apparently ingratiated herself with
 Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically
 died  of leukemia,"  the statement read. "The University immediately initiated
 an  investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for
 and  nature of  this  hoax.  While the  proper  authorities  will continue  to
 investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and
 very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators."
 
 Te'o,  who won  a  slew of  individual  awards and  finished  second to  Texas
 A&M  quarterback  Johnny Manziel  in balloting for  this year's Heisman Trophy
 after helping Notre Dame to a 12-0 regular season and an appearance in the BCS
 National Championship Game, and his family also issued a statement:
 
 "This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of
 time,  I developed  an emotional relationship with a woman I met online," Te'o
 said.  "We maintained  what  I  thought to  be  an  authentic relationship  by
 communicating  frequently  online and on the  phone, and I grew to care deeply
 about her.
 
 "To  realize that I  was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke
 and  constant  lies was, and is,  painful and humiliating. It further pains me
 that  the  grief I felt and  the sympathies expressed to  me at the time of my
 grandmother's  death in  September were in any way deepened by what I believed
 to  be another  significant loss in my  life. I am enormously grateful for the
 support  of  my family, friends  and Notre Dame  fans throughout this year. To
 think  that I  shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details
 that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick.
 
 "I  hope that  people  can  understand how  trying  and  confusing this  whole
 experience  has  been. In retrospect,  I obviously  should have been much more
 cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far
 more  guarded  when they engage with  people online than I was. Fortunately, I
 have many wonderful things in my life, and I'm looking forward to putting this
 painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft."
 
 
 
 
 01/17 03:07:59 ET