By now everyone has heard the incredible, shocking, possibly heartbreaking news that Manti Te'o's girlfriend never existed. Maybe Te'o was a part of the scam, or maybe he wasn't. Either way it's one of the most unbelievable stories you'll ever hear in the world of sports, and possibly outside of sports as well. And while it's fun to talk about and speculate, and, no doubt, easy to pile on Te'o, Notre Dame, the alleged hoaxers, I have to ask, does it really matter?
When I ask that question, I ask it from Notre Dame's and ND's fans perspective. Perhaps Te'o perpetrated a fraud, and for that should be rightfully scorned. Perhaps he was a naive, gullible young man who was the victim of a deep, complicated hoax which makes him a sympathetic figure. It seems as if he didn't know then he at least exaggerated the relationship. But whatever the case, does that change what Te'o meant, or what he did for the university and the community?
Whether he knew or not, that doesn't change the 113 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 7 interceptions, and two fumble recoveries he recorded this season. It doesn't change what Te'o meant to the football team, the student body, and Notre Dame fans in general. It doesn't change the legacy he spent four years building. It doesn't change all the awards he won or the way he led the team to an undefeated regular season and a spot in the national championship game. None of that matters.
Te'o's naivete at best, or fraudulent activity at worst, only matters to him and his future NFL employer. Notre Dame is not responsible for this. Te'o will have to answer all the questions and the only person possibly hurt by all this is Te'o. It'll be a shame if he cannot realize his full potential because of his or someone else's action, but that doesn't concern Notre Dame. Brian Kelly and all the rest of the players coming back only have to worry about themselves. Te'o is gone and will not be back. Their only concern should be how they are going to replace his production and leadership. The rest is for the NFL to decide.
Eventually this story will fade away and it will be a footnote in Te'o's life. But his legacy at Notre Dame is secure and should be. Nothing else matters.