January 19, 2013

Te'o provides answers, but more may be asked

By RALPH D. RUSSO, The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

Schaap remarked to Te'o earlier in the interview that he still talked about Lennay as if she existed.

"Well, in my mind I still don't have answers," Te'o replied. "I'm still wondering what's going on, what happened."

Tuiasosopo has not spoken publicly since Deadspin.com broke the news of the hoax on Wednesday and identified him as being heavily involved. He and his family have declined several requests for comment by The Associated Press.

Whether Tuiasosopo ultimately confirms Te'o's version of the story will go a long way toward determining where this saga is headed.

In the interview with ESPN, Te'o implied that he was not holding a grudge against Tuiasosopo.

"I hope he learns," Te'o said. "I hope he understands what he's done. I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough."

Te'o was the emotional leader and best player on a Notre Dame team that went from unranked to playing for the program's first national championship since 1988. And Te'o's tale of inspired play while dealing with a double-dose of tragedy became the theme of the Irish's unexpected rise and undefeated regular season.

Not until Te'o and the Irish faced Alabama in the BCS championship did the good times end. The Crimson Tide won in a 42-14 rout, the hoax was then exposed and suddenly the dream season was tarnished.

So far no law enforcement agencies have indicated they are pursuing a criminal case in the scam, and Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick in a news conference earlier this week said the university was going to leave it up to Te'o and his family to pursue legal action. Were Te'o to pursue a lawsuit, it could expose him to answering more questions about this mess.

Swarbrick said it didn't seem as if laws were broken or NCAA rules violated. The Notre Dame athletic director had publicly encouraged Te'o to give his side of the story, and said his admiration for him had not changed.

While fans and the members of the media might not be satisfied with where Te'o has left it, he won't necessarily be compelled to answer to them - just to potential employers starting in February.

At the NFL combine, Te'o will have his physical skills and fitness tested, and he will be interviewed by NFL executives and coaches. He has been projected as a potential first-round draft pick. If his involvement in this hoax sets off red flags for teams and it causes him to slip in April's draft, it could cost him millions of dollars.

Said former Dallas Cowboys general manager and NFL draft consultant Gil Brandt: "Between now and 97 days from now when the draft comes, there'll be a lot of people investigating just what took place."

 

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