ASK CFN - All Manti Te'o
Posted Jan 19, 2013

The Q&A on the Manti Te'o hoax story that's getting bigger and bigger.

2013 ASK CFN

January 19 - More Manti 

E-mail Pete Fiutak

I compiled the all-Manti Te'o ASK CFN over the last week, and then it all took a left turn late Friday night after the Jeremy Schaap interview ... with no cameras. The only certainty about this story is that it's not going to slow down any time soon.

Fire over your questions, comments and baskets of mini-muffins to, or you can tweet them to me @ColFootballNews. I might not be able to answer them all, but I promise they're all read.

- Part 2 - NO MANTI. Is Johnny Manziel a pro QB?

Q: You're what's wrong with the media. This kid is going through the toughest thing his life and you poke fun and make jokes? What if Manti Te'o was your son. How would you feel? He was clearly the victim of a horrible joke. Now is the time to help him, and you and everyone else seem to be making it worse. - No Name

A: Whoa … hold up. Te'o is the one making it worse by not instantly jumping in front of the media with a press conference and explaining exactly what happened, and the Jeremy Schaap interview, at least Schaap's interpretation of the interview, is only making the situation look worse.

So let me get this straight. Te'o does one interview with ESPN with no cameras in a controlled environment and now this is all supposed to just go away?

There are still a million different moving parts to this story and we still don't really know anything. As much as Schaap tried, nothing is adding up here with new angles popping up by the minute.

According to the timelines and according to when Te'o reportedly knew what was happening, HE KEPT TALKING ABOUT HIS "GIRLFRIEND" AFTER HE SUPPOSEDLY KNEW SHE WASN'T REAL. His explanation to Schaap is that he "catered" his answers so people would think "he met her before she passed away."


He's claiming that his play in the BCS championship was affected because people related to Ronaiah Tuiasosopo were at the team hotel?!

THAT'S the excuse? THAT'S going to be what NFL teams are supposed to buy when they look at the game tape and wonder why he whiffed on so many Eddie Lacy spin moves? Could that possibly be more of an agent answer for his poor play on the biggest stage against an elite team?

The whole, "I didn't want it to be a distraction" excuse would've been totally plausible if he had come out the split second after the BCS championship and told the world what had happened. An entire month went by with more and more stories about the "tragedy" leading up to the BCS championship, despite Te'o allegedly knowing differently, and yet none of the stories seem to be coming together. I get that he might have been gullible, but something is missing.

But more than anything else, no, I just can't possibly believe that anyone could have a love-of-their-life girlfriend that they never met. What about Facetime or Skype? And really, she's dying and you don't go meet her? This doesn't add up on any level whatsoever. At some point there has to be a better explanation than what's being slung.

Q: At the risk of being considered crazy, why is everyone making SUCH a big deal out of the Manti Te'o story? It's not like anyone really died, and it doesn't seem like anyone was breaking the law. I know I'm missing something, but really, why is this such a big deal? - Jordan K.

A: I have to admit, in a way, I was sort of with you when this first started, but now I really want to know what happened because it's all becoming even less believable as the story keeps unfolding. At the end of the day, no matter how this plays out, this is embarrassing. That's it.

There doesn't appear to be any criminal activity happening, there aren't any NCAA violations in play, and it doesn't seem like this is anything more than an advanced case of punking. It's a huge deal because of all the attention paid to the fake story during the season. A lot of very big deal journalists feel silly and want to make amends, and the public that fell for this wants answers after having their emotions played with.

Q: My buddies and I have been going over the Te'o thing. How should Notre Dame have handled this? What should Te'o have done once the story came out? I'm curious to see if you have some of the same thoughts we did. - Brian O.

A: PR-wise, this was totally screwed up from the start and it's only getting worse. If Te'o really is just a victim, he should've come out in front of the media immediately in a press conference – as in two hours after the story broke – and said something about how embarrassed he was for being so naïve and how he was too trusting and too foolish to be taken like this.

He then should've gone on to say that he was way too ashamed to come out and say what really happened at the time, before launching into the line about how he didn't want to be any sort of a distraction for the team or the school during the preparation for the BCS championship.

Then, he should've apologized profusely and admitted he was wrong for not handling it better. If he had done that at a real, live press conference, the story would've fizzled and all the focus would've turned to Lance Armstrong. The media would've had a ton of questions, but it all would've come back to Te'o simply being a victim and not quite knowing what he should've done.

Now there are problems.

Now, he's coming across as coached-up and prepared with canned answers, at least as far as I can tell from the Jeremy Schaap interpretation of the interview.

Jack Swarbrick's Q&A kicked things off on a sour note because he didn't get the timeline right without the Te'o explanation at the ready. He should've come out and said that Notre Dame was still trying to figure out exactly what happened, just like everyone else was, and the school was going to wait until the situation played out before making any sort of judgment.

To be fair, the school really did appear to have no idea what this was all about, and it had to make sure it was covered from a legal standpoint, but the media session only ended up creating more pieces that didn't fit into the puzzle. As much as Swarbrick wanted to be out there as soon as possible to be a representative for Notre Dame, you can't do a press conference like that without Te'o.

Because this wasn't tackled right away, the media has been allowed to blow this thing up into historic tabloid proportions. Now there's rampant speculation on a variety of aspects of the story and it's taking on an even more mysterious life of its own.

Q: Who, in the media, is at fault here? There's egg on everyone's face, but is this a system-wide breakdown or did ESPN mess this up or was it someone else? Deadspin got it? Really? - Lawrence A.

A: It's Journalism 101 to do a fact check if someone says the sky is blue, but I have a hard time getting all high-and-mighty on anyone who dove head first into the tragedy angle during the football season. It's not like this was just some random student; if the high-profile superstar linebacker on one of the highest-profile teams in sports is saying his grandmother and girlfriend both died, really, you're going to question him?

I know, I know, I know, the more sensational the story, the deeper the fact checking has to be, but speaking from my side of the wall, I know that if I'm talking to a player and he's giving me some story, and I talk to the sports information director about it, right or wrong, I'm sold.

I'm not blaming the Notre Dame sports info people at all – how were they supposed to know? - but I can see how the heavy hitters at ESPN, NBC, CBS and others missed this. This wasn't like some of the recent major college football stories that required deeper digging outside of the school-spin; this was a human interest story that no one would've ever thought to be a hoax. Going forward, though, everything is about to change.

Q: When is everyone going to start putting some of the blame on Brian Kelly? Shouldn't he have known about some of this? And what about after the school found out, it's his program. Why isn't he taking any blame? - Jim

A: Normally I'd be with you on the idea that the head coach controls everything about his program – and I've certainly dogged Kelly for his handling of other situations – but this one isn't about him at all. There are so many angles here and so many legal and ethical question marks that this had to be handled by the Notre Dame higher-ups. It's not really Kelly's place to take a major stand right now - even though we all know exactly what he's going to say - until Te'o says more and until the school figures out how it's going to handle it.

Q: how far does teo slip in the draft. thanks. - J.B.

A: The inside draftheads and scouts I talked to don't think he'll drop at all, but I don't believe that for a second. The all say that his greatest intangibles are his character and leadership abilities, and now both of those have to be questioned and questioned again. Before this came out he was going to be taken around the 15, but now I could see him dropping until late in the first round unless the interviews are flawless and his story checks out. The NFL GMs are going to be a lot rougher on him than Schaap.


A: No argument from me. Please, join me in my fight to have the Heisman voting done after the bowl games. Te'o over Manziel and Reggie Bush over Vince Young are the two throws I wish I could have back. 

- Part 2 - NO MANTI. Is Johnny Manziel a pro QB?