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Notre Dame AD addresses Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax

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Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick held a Wednesday night news conference to discuss the circumstances surrounding Manti Te'o, calling the senior linebacker a victim and a "perfect mark" for "perpetrators" who created online girlfriend Lennay Kekua and her supposed death from leukemia.

Swarbrick said he and the school were made aware of the situation Dec. 26, when Te'o told his coaches that he had received a call from his late girlfriend's phone number, three months after her supposed death. Notre Dame hired a private investigation company, which gave its report to the school Jan. 4. The report included bragging and "online chatter among the perpetrators," according to Swarbrick.

Te'o and Notre Dame were prepared to publicly discuss the situation next week, according to Swarbrick, but Deadspin.com published its report about the hoax Wednesday. Swarbrick completely supported Te'o but added the linebacker should have the right to release the details of his choosing and that he could speak as soon as Thursday.

Te'o released a statement before the news conference, saying he had "developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online" and spoken to over the telephone. Swarbrick, who fought back tears while discussing the matter, said the Te'o case is an example of "catfishing."

"An initial casual engagement," Swarbrick said. "A developing relationship online. A subsequent trauma -- traffic accident, illness. And then a death."

Swarbrick took a very hard stance while supporting Te'o's explanation that he was the victim of a sick joke.

"Nothing about what I have learned has shaken my faith in Manti Te'o one iota," Swarbrick said.

This story is awful, if true. But people are going to continue to wonder what happened until questions are answered.

If Te'o doesn't do that Thursday or sometime soon, it might not happen until next month's NFL Scouting Combine, where the Heisman Trophy runner-up will be the most anticipated player interview.

Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.

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