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SBD/January 17, 2013/CollegesPrint All
Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick held a “hastily called" press conference last night to tell the school's side of the story that LB Manti Te'o's deceased girlfriend actually did not exist, according to a front-page piece by Eric Hansen of the SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE. However, the 39-minute press conference and the "singular source" of Swarbrick "weren't nearly enough to connect all the dots in what is now being characterized as a hoax in which Notre Dame casts Te'o and his family as victims, and Deadspin.com, which broke the story, paints the All-American and Heisman Trophy runner-up as a likely co-conspirator." Swarbrick went through a timeline of events on when the school was informed of the story and said that the gap between when Te'o received a call in Orlando that his alleged girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, was in fact not dead on Dec. 6 and when he informed his coaches on Dec. 26 “existed because Teo first wanted to talk to his parents face to face when he went home for Christmas break.” Swarbrick was asked about the school's timing of coming forward and said, "We had no idea as to motive, and that was really significant to us. We're in a unique business here. Was there somebody trying to create an NCAA violation at the core of this? Was there somebody trying to impact the outcome of football games by manipulating the emotions of a key player? Was there an extortion request coming?” Swarbrick said he was sorry that the "single-most trusting human being I've ever met will never be able to trust in the same way again in his life." Swarbrick: "That's an incredible tragedy." (SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, 1/17). Read the entire transcript from Swarbrick’s press conference.
GETTING THE FACTS: Notre Dame “hired a private firm to investigate after Te’o shared the details on Dec. 26.” Swarbrick said that after the report “came out Jan. 4, he shared it with Te’o’s parents in South Florida on Jan. 5, and the family had planned to release the story next week.” He said that there was “no evidence of criminal conduct or NCAA violations” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/17). In K.C., Blair Kerkhoff in a front-page piece notes in the “early stages of discovery, Notre Dame feared possible criminal activity and wondered about motive.” Swarbrick said that the university “considered but did not alert the police” (K.C. STAR, 1/17). Notre Dame did not encourage Te'o "to set the record straight before the title game.” Instead, officials “sat silent while reporters prepared stories about Kekua's fake death, fake leukemia and fake Stanford degree.” Swarbrick said, "We encouraged him to try to focus forward and focus on the game" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/17).
JACK IN A BOX: In Chicago, Mark Lazerus notes the Deadspin story “never outright accused Te’o of being in on the hoax,” but it did cite a source "that said he was '80 percent sure that Te’o was "in on it," and that (he and a family friend) perpetrated Lennay Kekua’s death with publicity in mind'” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/17). Swarbrick “emphatically” said that he “did not believe Te'o was complicit in the scheme.” Swarbrick: "Every single thing about this, until that day in the first week of December, was real to Manti" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/17). In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell writes Swarbrick's press conference last night was "uncomfortable" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/17). In Honolulu, Ferd Lewis writes in a front-page piece Swarbrick was “at times emotional” during the press conference (Honolulu STAR-ADVERTISER, 1/17). However, in Chicago, John Kass writes Notre Dame is “complicit in the lie,” and all the spinning last night by Swarbrick “can't change it” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/17). In South Bend, Al Lesar writes Te’o’s “professional handlers likely have him going over his version of this fiasco trying to salvage some shred of dignity, while not having his marketability impacted too much” (SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE, 1/17). Te'o is currently being repped by CAA (THE DAILY).
FILLING IN THE BLANKS: Deadspin's Timothy Burke said of breaking the story, “We got an e-mail last week that said, ‘There’s something fishy about Lennay Kekua, Manti Te’o’s alleged girlfriend. You guys should check it out.’ We found different outlets reporting different days that she had died” (“GMA,” ABC, 1/17). Burke said Deadspin today will publish a “full listing of some of the glaring discrepancies and contradictions in the reporting of this story ... that should have been an immediate red flag to anybody paying attention to college football news.” There were “five separate dates” that Kekua “allegedly died in major media services and somebody should have noticed this” (“Today,” NBC, 1/17). In Chicago, St. Claire & Hamilton write in a front-page piece the news “leaves a black mark on sports journalism, as many news outlets -- including the Tribune -- ran stories about Kekua's passing without verifying her death.” The Chicago Tribune also “published 15 articles mentioning her death in the past four months” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/17). In DC, Paul Farhi writes the media “took Te’o’s word for it without inquiring further.” ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski said, “In retrospect, you can see where some of those things weren’t adding up to make sense. It’s easy to say now, but at the time it never enters your mind that somebody was involved in that kind of hoax. We wanted to believe it so much” (WASHINGTON POST, 1/17).
San Diego State AD Jim Sterk yesterday announced that the school "will abandon plans to join the Big East and Big West in 2013, and remain in the Mountain West," according to a front-page piece by Loh & Zeigler of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Boise State’s departure "left SDSU as the sole West Coast team in the Big East." However, it also "opened the door for the Aztecs to leave the Big East without having to pay an exit fee because of a clause in their contract that releases them from their agreement with the Big East if there is no other member of the conference located west of the Rocky Mountains." As SDSU debated its options, Sterk "took trips to Colorado Springs to peruse the Mountain West’s new television contract for football, and participated in the Big East meeting’s most recent meeting in Dallas, Texas last Friday." Sources said that when the Big East "could not guarantee revenue or produce solid projections, the Mountain West became the safer option." The Big East, which has a year remaining in its current TV deal, "almost certainly would have meant more money for the 2013 football season." But anything beyond that "was an increasingly murky proposition." Sterk said that given what he "knew at the time the Aztecs opted to join the Big East, he would make the same decision again." Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said that the league "will retain rights to all SDSU games in all sports." In contrast, SDSU's deal with the Big West allowed it "to retain rights" to its non-conference home basketball games, and this "would have been another valuable source of revenue." The Mountain West ADs will "meet Monday to discuss future plans -- including the possibility of splitting into two divisions, and a football championship game" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/17). In Hartford, Paul Doyle notes while SDSU officials attended the Big East's meeting in Dallas last week, Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco "did not try to persuade the school to come, as conference leaders decided to move on without a western presence" (HARTFORD COURANT, 1/17).
NEW DEAL: In Boise, Brian Murphy notes the Mountain West can "renegotiate with CBS" now that SDSU has been added. Thompson said, "We gave CBS 10 San Diego State football games and 16-18 Top 25 basketball games. There's good solid value in that" (IDAHO STATESMAN, 1/17). ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy noted CBS Sports Network will "have the option to pick up a Mountain West Championship game." Thompson said, "We've been talking to them (CBS Sports Network) every step of the way." He said that the league "hopes to have a conference schedule completed by late April." Thompson: "I'm elated with our 12-team lineup. We got the band back together" (ESPN.com, 1/16).
ONE COAST AT A TIME: ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson wrote, "Let us all hope the Big East comes to its senses now that Boise State and San Diego State are staying where they belong." Their agreement to join the Big East "was never practical." It was "never convenient." What this league "must do is re-focus its efforts and try to become a regionalized brand again, with Texas as its western-most boundary" (ESPN.com, 1/16). ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel writes Aresco has "all but flipped the conference upside down in midair in order to withstand the turbulence of realignment." Now that SDSU has rejoined BSU in the Mountain West, Aresco "may get it done." The "sea-to-shining-sea conference membership was a bad idea, and the Big East has spent a lot of time and money undoing it" (ESPN.com, 1/17).
PATIENCE PAYS OFF: In Reno, Dan Hinxman writes, "Mountain West football will remain a national player after the 2012-13 season." Yesterday was a day "for celebration brought about because Thompson had the wherewithal to remain patient during the conference-realignment tornado that is swallowing up the aggressive-minded Big East" (RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL, 1/17). In San Diego, Matt Calkins writes the "easy move right now is to blame Sterk for this circus and say that he fumbled a snap." He is a "convenient scapegoat." But Sterk's attempts "deserve four words rarely justified in Division I sports: At least he tried." The move offered the program "a chance to step onto the national stage and net the athletic department an estimated $6 million in annual television revenue." But when BSU announced that it was returning to the Mountain West, "rendering the future of the Big East immensely tenuous, Sterk played it safe and followed suit." Calkins: "Ask any poker player -- the hands you fold are just as crucial as the pots you rake in" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/17).
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby yesterday said that league officials "'could be proactive' on the expansion front and will address the topic in league meetings" Jan. 28-29, according to Jimmy Burch of the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM. The Big 12 has only 10 members and that is "not enough ... to have a conference championship game in football." But the configuration "does maximize per-school revenues from television rights fees." Bowlsby said that is a financial advantage league officials "will weigh during discussions about the future of the Big 12." Bowlsby: "Until we’re persuaded that larger is better, we feel pretty good about right where we are. ... I just think there’s a real shortage of empirical evidence that can guide our decisions." Bowlsby even cited the "possibility of adding a Big 12 championship game under the league’s configuration if NCAA rules, which allow such games only in conferences with 12 or more members, are tweaked." He said, "In a period of deregulation, does it make sense that the association is describing the manner in which we create our champion? Does it make any difference if we have 10 members and we take our two highest-ranked teams at the end of the year and have them play off one more time in a repeat and the champion goes on to the post-season? It’s just another area of deregulation that we think is worthy of consideration" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/17).
THINGS STABILIZING SOME? N.C. State Univ. Chancellor Randy Woodson yesterday said of conference realignment, “We were surprised as a conference by Maryland, and I’m not going to say a lot about that because there are some legal issues involved in that. But I think what most conferences have done to try to stabilize is make leaving the conference cost-prohibitive. And frankly I think it has stabilized, except for I would worry a little bit about the Big 12, because they only have 10 teams.” Meanwhile, he said of the ACC’s TV rights contract with ESPN, “We’re definitely satisfied with the level of coverage we’re getting. We’re getting a lot of national exposure as a result of our new contract. And it was a fair contract relative to everything. But this is a really strange time” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 1/17).
Georgia Tech yesterday named Xavier AD Mike Bobinski to the same position, making him the school's "eighth athletic director," according to Ken Sugiura of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. Bobinski spent 12 years as Xavier AD, and is “scheduled to begin at Tech on April 1.” He will be introduced tomorrow. Bobinski landed at Tech after a "three-month search process than began after Dan Radakovich ended his six-year term in October to take the same job at Clemson.” Xavier “ranked 11th in Division I in graduation success rate at 97 percent.” Bobinski among his “noteworthy accomplishments” at Xavier kept the men’s basketball team “thriving with a series of new coaches.” He also “serves as the chair of the NCAA men’s basketball committee, which oversees the NCAA tournament.” At Tech, Bobinski will face challenges “that Radakovich also battled -- filling Bobby Dodd Stadium and developing new revenue streams.” He will also “have to become more acquainted with BCS-level football” (AJC.com, 1/16).