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Associated Press
Notre Dame linebacker Manti T'eo was the victim of a hoax, the university said: His dying girlfriend never existed.

Notre Dame stands by Te'o

Manti Te'o's story of triumph over tragedy during the college football season unraveled Wednesday.

Deadspin published a report on its website stating that the story of the former Notre Dame linebacker's girlfriend dying during this season was a hoax and that a woman named Lennay Kekua never existed.

To read the story, click here.

Notre Dame was quick to defend its star linebacker, issuing a statement after the story was published.

"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."

Te'o issued a statement that said:

"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."

Stanford spokeswomen Lisa Laplin said in a phone interview that there is no record of Lennay Kekua or any student with a name close to that to have attended the university. The Los Angeles County Department of Coroner said it had no record of Lennay Kekua being dead.

For more on this story, read Thursday's print edition of The Journal Gazette or visit www.journalgazette.net after 3 a.m. Thursday.

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