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What we want to know about the Manti Te'o story

  • Everyone's minds are still humming about the scandal involving Manti Te'o
  • We all know a little bit about it. But what we don't know is so much more interesting
Manti Te'o

Listen, we're not going to pretend to know anything more about the Manti Te'o story than anyone else does. But just because the answer to the million-dollar question -- what really happened? -- is shrouded in mystery, doesn't mean there aren't a whole host of other questions that could help us come to a better understanding of the situation. Here are the most burning and bizarre:

1. Why did Te'o continue to reference his girlfriend after the time he and officials both say they knew about the problem?
According to official statements, Te'o knew about the hoax on Dec. 6, 2012. Notre Dame officials were contacted on December 26. In the interim, and even after the latter date, Te'o fielded questions about Kekua, and his relationship was even referenced during the BCS Championship Game. So was he trying to hide something, or just waiting for the right time to deal with a difficult and embarrassing secret?

2. What role did Ronaiah Tuiasosopo play in all of this?
The Deadspin article that broke this story seemed to implicate Tuiasosopo in the scam. We know he and Te'o were friends, and we know multiple sources have cited him as a major player in the scandal. Now, an unnamed friend of Tuiasosopo tells ESPN Outside the Lines that Tuiasosopo admitted to the hoax in early December. What to believe?

3. Why did Reagan Maui'a admit to talking to Kekua?
Isn't that hard to do when someone doesn't exist? Former Arizona Cardinals player Reagan Maui'a has gone on record saying he had met Kekua, was close to her family, and could describe her physical appearance. So was he also duped? What is going on here?

4. Who is running the @LennayKay twitter account?
Kekua's Twitter account, where she and Te'o did a lot of their "communicating," has changed names several times. The latest iteration of @LennayKay appears to have been scrubbed, deactivated and reactivated. After the hoax broke, the account tweeted several joking responses and defended players Reagan Maui'a and Troy Polamalu. So, we know it's not legit. But whoever is running this, do they have any knowledge of the hoax?

5. Why was Te'o so awkward in talking to reporters about his girlfriend?
Sports Illustrated reporter Pete Thamel recently released the full transcript of an interview with Te'o, during which Te'o seems to clumsily evade basic questions about his relationship. Skeptics could say that he was trying to avoid detail, but if he really was conducting an exclusively online relationship, like Notre Dame officials have stated, could he simply have been trying to avoid talking about it?

6. Did Tuiasosopo meet a young Te'o fan, take a picture of her and pretend to be part of Lennay Kekua's family?
TMZ published a photo that is supposedly of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, Lennay's younger "sister" Pookah and a Notre Dame fan who met them at a game. The fan told TMZ she talked to Lennay before she died, and eventually kept in touch with Lennay's other "sister" U'ilani. When the two agreed to meet up at a game, Ronaiah reportedly showed up instead of U'ilani. Does this story hold water? And if it does, what does it bring to the table?

7. Why were people talking about the Te'o hoax on Twitter long before it came to light?
Several sites have grabbed conversations between two Twitter users, @jayRahz and @ceeweezy51, joking about Lennay Kekua's existence long before the scandal came to light. @jayRahz apparently also tweeted the official "Catfish" twitter account, implying that Lennay Kekua and her death were made up to gain attention.

8. Who is Deadspin's "Reba" and when will she speak out?
A key figure in Deadspin's report was "Reba" (not her real name), the woman who claims her likeness was used in creating Lennay Kekua's identity. Will she come forward? Her voice would be a huge addition to the conversation.

9. To whom was Te'o talking on the phone, when he thought it was Lennay?
One of our biggest questions: Te'o says he talked to Lennay on the phone. So, who was he talking to? Was it the same person who conducted the supposed hoax? Was it an accomplice?

10.Why did Te'os family offer up information officials now deny?
Brian Te'o, Manti's father, has gone on record saying his son met up with Lennay Kekua, and that he had specific knowledge of their relationship. Notre Dame and Te'o statements specifically say the relationship was exclusively online and on the phone. Why don't these accounts match up?

11. How much did his teammates know, and should it matter?
Several Notre Dame players say they were a little confused about Te'o's relationship with Kekua. One unnamed player called Te'o a "very good" actor. This all may be water under the bridge. Teammates not knowing details about the relationship doesn't necessarily mean anything in and of itself, but if some Notre Dame players had their doubts, they could be important pieces in the puzzle.

12. If there was someone who perpetrated a hoax in this case, have they done it before?
One theory regarding the inconsistencies in the story of Kekua's existence and social ties is that -- if this was a hoax -- whoever set it in motion had plenty of experience with this sort of thing. This is a common thread in public instances of "catfishing," and could explain a lot of loose ends in the Te'o story. The friend of Ronaiah who talked to ESPN claims, "it was a lot of other people they had done this to."

13. When will Te'o address the situation directly?
Notre Dame and Te'o were quick to release statements, and ND officials held a press conference not long after news of the situation went viral. Still, people waiting for answers are looking forward to Te'o stepping up and talking about it in person. Will it be sooner or later?

14. How will this affect Te'o professional career?
Te'o is expected to be a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Sure, players careers have survived much heavier blows to their reputations, but depending on how all of this plays out, will Te'o's career suffer? Will his prospects diminish, and when he does go pro, will this incident affect the way people see him on the field?

15. Could there be legal ramifications?
No one is sure how this will shake out, but when all is said and done, if there was something serious at stake, could whoever's behind the creation of this fake girlfriend face some legal issues?

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