SOUTH BEND, IN-- Notre Dame said Wednesday that a story about Manti Te'o's girlfriend dying, which he said inspired him to play better as he helped the Fighting Irish get to the BCS title game, turned out to be a hoax apparently perpetrated against the linebacker.
As news of the alleged hoax spread, Te'o himself released a statement, according to CBSSports.com, saying he as the "victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies."
The week before Notre Dame played Michigan State on Sept. 15, coach Brian Kelly told reporters that Te'o's grandmother and a friend had died. Te'o didn't miss the game. He said Kekua had told him not to miss a game if she died. Te'o turned in one of his best performances of the season in the 20-3 victory in East Lansing, and his playing through heartache became a prominent theme during the Irish's undefeated regular season.
Te'o went on the become a Heisman Trophy finalist, finishing second in the voting, and leading Notre Dame to its first appearance in the BCS championship.
Te'o and the Irish lost the title game to Alabama, 42-14 on Jan. 7. He has graduated and was set to begin preparing for the NFL combine and draft at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., this week.
Te'o's mother did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The university issued a news release Wednesday after Deadspin.com reported it could find no record of Lennay Kekua existing. It was also announced the university will be having a press conference regarding the story around 9 p.m. ET.
The university statement, according to CBSSports.com, reads in full: "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 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."
Neither Te'o nor his family has yet commented on the story that has thrown the college football world into a frenzy, reports CBSSports.com.
In reaction to the story, Te'o's teammate, Zeke Motta, tweeted: "My dude @MTeo_5 (Manti Te'o) is as real as it gets... anybody Thinking otherwise needs to check themselves."
Te'o's full statement on the situation, according to CBSSports.com:
"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. 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."
USA Today: 9 Crazy Things About The Manti Te'o Story