The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Sunday, Oct. 4, 6:03 p.m.

Portraying Te’o as victim becoming harder to do

Nothing in recent news stands out as more bizarre than the Manti Te’o scandal. Te’o, an elite linebacker for Notre Dame, a Heisman Trophy finalist who was considered to be one of the best players in college football, was involved in a long-term relationship with with whom he believed to be a girl with leukemia, but was found to be a man posing as the girl, using an online platform to do so.

Big questions have been raised by this exposed catfish scandal: How on earth could such a high profile athlete have gone along with it for the three-plus year period that he did, is there more to the story, and was knowingly involved in the deception?

If I were a college football player en route to being a top draft pick, there is not a chance in hell I would stick around for three years with a person on the internet if I had never even seen them. This brings Te’o’s extremely questionable decision making, possibly his morals and values as well, to light, which absolutely will affect his stock in the upcoming NFL Draft.

There is no debating it: Manti Te’o has absolutely dominated college football this year and anchored a Notre Dame team that had a storybook season. He used the deaths of his grandmother and of his alleged girlfriend, who had supposedly passed away from leukemia, to propel him to victory during the season. Te’o had America captivated by his emotional story of loss and inspiration. Before the latest developments to that story, he was portrayed as a man who could do no wrong, both on and off the field — not to mention as a model of emotional stability and exceptional values.

We can consider that a wash. This type of thing would have been impossible 15 years ago, as there were no such websites for romantic correspondence. Nowadays, the sheer number of people connecting through dating and social networking websites is huge. There is even a TV show and movie about what is referred to as “catfishing,” or making a profile on a dating website used to lure another user into a fake relationship. Deception is the name of the game, and from what we can tell right now, Te’o got absolutely duped in what might turn out to be a fatal error to his pre-scandal reputation. Manti has some serious explaining to do – and fast. He needs to formulate a believable story to release to the public to do some damage control because right now, his image is smashed.