The story behind the girlfriend hoax of star Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o has been news that has transcended sports. Major national news outlets such as CNN and CBS News have covered various reports about the situation on seemingly a daily basis. It is easy to see why the Te'o story has gotten so much attention; it is a chronicle that combines a star athlete, internet mystery, numerous conflicting reports about a nonexistent woman, and enough rumors to fill a supermarket tabloid. Ultimately, the truth will come out about whether Manti Te'o is a part of the girlfriend hoax or whether he was folly for a cruel prank. While this is the most bizarre off the field incident for Notre Dame football program since head coach Brian Kelly's arrival during the 2010 college football season, there have been a couple off the field stories much more worthy of the attention that the Te'o story has received.
During Brian Kelly's initial season with Notre Dame in 2010, the program suffered a major tragedy in October 2010 when Notre Dame student worker Declan Sullivan fell from a tower where he was filming football practice. Wind gusts of over 50 miles per hour contributed to the collapse of the tower in which Sullivan fell from, sadly killing him. While the school correctly admitted responsibility in the death of Sullivan, the national media attention of the story did not reach the magnitude of the Te'o story. The premature death of their son did not cause the parents of Declan Sullivan to sue the University of Notre Dame but there have been no reports of a financial settlement received by Sullivan's parents since his death.
Another disheartening off the field event involving the Notre Dame football program allegedly occurred on August 31, 2010 when a 19 year old student from St. Mary's College accused a football player of sexually assaulting her. The student, Lizzy Seeberg, tragically took her own life on September 10, days after she reported to university police that she'd been improperly touched by a Notre Dame football player. The sexual assault allegation by Seeberg did receive national media attention but the University of Notre Dame itself was later reviewed and investigated by the U.S. Department of Education about their handling of sexual assaults due to the sexual assault allegiation by Seeberg. Months following the U.S. Department of Education investigation, Notre Dame agreed to change how it handles allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.
The lives of the families of Declan Sullivan and Lizzy Seeberg were changed forever in 2010 in which the Notre Dame football program may have made a significant negative impact based on the findings of the respective cases. Notre Dame is not the only collegiate sports program to have sexual assault allegations or to have made bad judgments and while the media and the public have understandably gravitated toward the weirdness and unpredictability of the Te'o story, the possible victims of his story do not compare to the victims of the Sullivan and Seeberg stories.