Sports world reacts to football star's fake dead girlfriend

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Manti Te’o By Jennifer Thomas Manti Te’o By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- Notre Duped! That's one of many jokes being made at the expense of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o as news emerged that the dead girlfriend he spoke of in numerous, heart-wrenching interviews never actually existed.

There’s an endless "theory mill" now grinding away at whether Te’o could really be so gullible or if he was actually in on the ruse from the beginning. If he was privy to the status of the faux relationship, many are wondering why he would advance such a fantasy.

The Doug & Wolf show on Arizona Sports 620 spent large chunks of its time talking Te’o on Thursday.

“I think he believed it earlier in the season and at some point, he changed and didn't actually become an accomplice to this, but at some point in time he was involved in this and knew what was going on. To me the question is why?” Wolf pondered.

The Heisman Trophy runner-up originally told Sports Illustrated, ESPN and other notable publications that he had a girlfriend he met after a Notre Dame vs. Stanford football game back in 2009. The much publicized story went that Te’o and the Stanford student named Lennay Kekua carried on a long-distance friendship that eventually grew into a romantic relationship.

But in April 2012, Te’o said Kekua had been in a terrible car accident that almost claimed her life. During the recovery doctors discovered she had leukemia. In an October interview with ESPN, Te’o said he learned Kekua had died from cancer just six hours after his grandmother had also died of the disease in September.

“Last thing she said to me was, ‘I love you,'" Te’o said of his girlfriend’s death in the October interview with ESPN.

However, in a story posted Wednesday by sports website,Te’o’s girlfriend never existed.

In the fallout that’s followed, both Te'o (in a written statement) and Notre Dame said he was the victim of a cruel hoax. However, they also now claim that Te’o never actually met Kekua in person, but rather carried on the perceived relationship based predominately on Twitter and phone interactions.

Notre Dame said Te’o found out he’d been duped in early December when he received a phone call from a woman he had previously thought to be Kekua, telling him she wasn’t dead. According to Notre Dame, that phone call happened on Dec. 6. Several days later, however, Te’o gave an interview noting that he didn’t like cancer because it had taken the lives of both his grandparents and his girlfriend. Notre Dame also said Te’o didn’t alert school officials to the situation until Dec. 26, at which time the university launched an investigation.

However, the school never went public with the allegations before they were brought to light by Deadspin.

“Yet all of this is before the National Championship game so they played a National Championship game knowing that the main story that heightened up Manti to Heisman voters, to the general public, is a ruse,” Doug of the Doug & Wolf show complained to listeners Thursday.

As of this publication, Manti Te’o has yet to address the situation in person.