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Te’o wished Tuiasosopo a happy birthday; Tuiasosopo addressed Te’o as —Samoan for “brother.”Then came the money shot: “A friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo told us he was ‘80 percent sure’ that Manti Te’o was ‘in on it,’ and that the two perpetrated Lennay Kekua’s death with publicity in mind.”The sentiment was widely shared. prison—the former for alleged major recruiting violations, the latter for the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

That afternoon, ESPN’s on-air news ticker shrank the story to a headline: DEADSPIN REPORTS: 80 PERCENT CHANCE TE’O INVOLVED IN HOAX. And, really, these are merely the two headliners in a period of widespread corruption wrought by the various moneyed forces—boosters, coaches, universities, media—who together compose the College Football Industrial Complex.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o abruptly ceased being football’s newest, shiniest hero in January, when it was revealed that his girlfriend–a heart-rending cancer victim–never existed.

Those who know Te’o best explain how he fell for such a strange hoax. It opens on February 4, 2009—with an event that is, in the world of college football, the biggest day of the year that doesn’t involve tackling.

For starters, news accounts rarely agreed on even the most basic details pertaining to Lennay’s life and death: the date of her accident, the location of her funeral.

Also, Lennay seemed to exist only within the context of Manti Te’o stories; otherwise, she was a person without any digital footprint of her own aside from the one thumbnail avatar photo that appeared in every news story.

The ticker failed to mention that the claim was based on speculation by an unnamed source who proved to be wrong. The Penn State scandal, being a textbook case of how not to handle an internal problem, also marked a sea change in the way both schools and players dealt with impending crises.

Given that ESPN is to sports media what TASS was to the Soviet Union, nightfall brought a riot of screaming media attacks on Te’o. To wit: Even before Deadspin revealed the hoax, both Notre Dame and Te’o determined to, in the words of Brian Te’o, Manti’s father, “get out in front of the story.” They had the advantage of time.

And one extended family of Samoans with a large presence in Hawaii—the Tuiasosopos—has produced a steady stream of collegiate and professional stars. Everyone agrees they’re the ideal match—right up until the minute Te’o faxes in his commitment letter. This reversal rocks the college-football universe, which can’t fathom why a devoutly Mormon kid from Hawaii would select a devoutly Catholic university in frigid, landlocked South Bend, Indiana. Inevitably our soul warrior makes 63 tackles and wins Freshman All-American honors. Heading into the 2012 senior season, the Irish are unranked, facing the toughest schedule in America. The team scraps its way to an undefeated regular season in which it combines several truly impressive wins with a few lucky escapes born of the fortuitous bounces and cowed officiating that can be endemic to Notre Dame Stadium.

Te’o issued a written statement saying that he’d been duped and that he was embarrassed.

Notre Dame’s athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, discussed the matter at a press conference.

That this silence happened to coincide with the lead-up to Notre Dame’s biggest game in decades was, at the very least, noteworthy.

Only after the Deadspin story broke, on January 16, did Te’o and Notre Dame publicly acknowledge Lennay Gate.

And one extended family of Samoans with a large presence in Hawaii—the Tuiasosopos—has produced a steady stream of collegiate and professional stars. Everyone agrees they’re the ideal match—right up until the minute Te’o faxes in his commitment letter. This reversal rocks the college-football universe, which can’t fathom why a devoutly Mormon kid from Hawaii would select a devoutly Catholic university in frigid, landlocked South Bend, Indiana. Inevitably our soul warrior makes 63 tackles and wins Freshman All-American honors. Heading into the 2012 senior season, the Irish are unranked, facing the toughest schedule in America. The team scraps its way to an undefeated regular season in which it combines several truly impressive wins with a few lucky escapes born of the fortuitous bounces and cowed officiating that can be endemic to Notre Dame Stadium.

Te’o issued a written statement saying that he’d been duped and that he was embarrassed.

Notre Dame’s athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, discussed the matter at a press conference.

That this silence happened to coincide with the lead-up to Notre Dame’s biggest game in decades was, at the very least, noteworthy.

Only after the Deadspin story broke, on January 16, did Te’o and Notre Dame publicly acknowledge Lennay Gate.

Afterward, he explains why he spent the day at Notre Dame Stadium rather than at his girlfriend’s funeral in California: Kekua, he says, made him promise he wouldn’t miss a game. “So I sent her roses and sent her two picks [interceptions] along with that.”From this point forward he’s basically Manti Tebow—a less preening, more sympathetic version of last year’s self-styled football Christ figure. 1 and is preparing to play the University of Alabama in the Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game.