US sports world shocked by dying girlfriend hoax

Manti Teo

As the American sports world was shaken by the news that an inspiring, playing-through-heartache story of a college football star was actually as a bizarre lie about a fake dead girlfriend, Manti Te'o and the University of Notre Dame faced questions Thursday about whether he really was duped, as he claimed, or whether he and the university were complicit in a hoax to mislead the public, perhaps to improve his chances of winning an award for the sport's best player.

An Associated Press review of news coverage found that the Heisman Trophy runner-up perpetuated the heartbreaking story about her death not once but twice after he supposedly discovered his online girlfriend of three years never even existed. Te'o talked about his doomed love in a Web interview on Dec. 8 and again in a newspaper interview published Dec. 11. He and the university said Wednesday that he learned on Dec. 6 that it was all a hoax _ that not only was she not dead, she wasn't even real.

Te'o also lost his grandmother _ for real _ the same day his girlfriend supposedly died, and his role in leading Notre Dame to its best season in decades endeared him to fans and put him at the center of college football's biggest feel-good story of the year.

Yahoo sports columnist Dan Wetzel said the case has ``left everyone wondering whether this was really the case of a nave football player done wrong by friends or a fabrication that has yet to play to its conclusion.''

Gregg Doyel, national columnist for CBSSports.com, was more direct.

``Nothing about this story has been comprehensible, or logical, and that extends to what happens next,'' he wrote. ``I cannot comprehend Manti Te'o saying anything that could make me believe he was a victim.''

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