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Notre Dame linebacker Manti Teío poses with the Bronko Nagurski Trophy during a news conference in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. The award is given annually to the national collegiate defensive player of the year. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) (AP)
AD stands by Te’o
Posted on Jan. 16, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

NOTRE DAME — In the unraveling tale of the Lennay Kekua hoax, Notre Dame is standing by its belief that Manti Te’o is an innocent victim in what athletic director Jack Swarbrick called “a very elaborate, very sophisticated hoax.”

News broke earlier today calling Te’o’s now-famous dead girlfriend a fraud — that the girl was not only deceased, but didn’t exist at all.

Swarbrick, Notre Dame’s athletic director, addressed media Wednesday night and said Te’o didn’t know of the hoax until he received a phone call on Dec. 26 from the number Te’o associated with Kekua.

The person on the other line sounded like Kekua and told Te’o that she wasn’t dead, Swarbrick said.

Te’o first turned to his parents and then turned to Swarbrick, head coach Brian Kelly, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and a couple of teammates with the news. Notre Dame launched an independent investigation into the hoax.

Swarbrick said Te’o’s parents planned on releasing the story next week before the Deadspin article was published today.

Swarbrick dismissed any notion of Te’o’s involvement in what he called “a sad, cruel game.”

“Every single thing about this, until that day in first week of December, was real to Manti,” Swarbrick said. “The pain was real, the grief was real, the affection was real. That’s the nature of this sad, cruel game.”

Swarbrick paused to collect himself before going on to say that the saddest thing to come out of this story is “the single most trusting human being that I’ve ever met will never be able to trust the same way again.”