But was Te'o actually the victim of a hoax? Or was he the mastermind of a swindle, peddling a fake story about a fake girlfriend to win fans as he contended for the Heisman trophy as some have suggested. It's tough to say, and it will surely take some time to sort out what actually happened. There's evidence for both theories, which we've collected in a handy digest to help you get the story straight.
Te'o was a victim
The statements: Both Te'o and Notre Dame have released statements denying foul play on the part of the 21-year-old football star. Te'o said that he "grew to care deeply" about Kekua and described the entire experience as "trying and confusing." Notre Dame called the hoax "a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators" and launched an investigation, the results of which they will not publish.
The media coverage: Throughout the course of Te'o's three-year-long relationship with Kekua, the media reported on the details, from the fake meeting to a fake car crash that Kekua was in before she contracted leukemia. Everybody covered the relationship: The South Bend Tribune, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, The Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times. Surely if Te'o were making the whole thing up, some reporter would've contacted Kekua or caught an inconsistency in Te'o's story.
The social media history: As Deadspin explains, there's a long trail of updates on Facebook and Twitter from Kekua, or whomever was pretending to be her, and her sister. We're not talking about a handful of updates, either. We're talking thousands. Faking social media accounts is obviously possible, but it's not easy. It's hard to imagine Te'o would've had the time not only to go to class, practice and games and update his own accounts but also maintain the existence of Kekua and her sister. Of course, he could've had help.
Te'o was the mastermind
The incentive: Ambitious to make it to the NFL, Te'o surely knew that the heartbreaking story of a girlfriend's tragic death in the middle of the football season would win over the hearts of the voting committee and fans, who collectively have one vote through an ESPN poll.
The web of connections: It would be easier to believe that Te'o got duped if he didn't have so many connections to other people implicated in the hoax. The woman in the pictures that were supposed to show Kekua told Deadspin that one of them had never been online. She'd given it to Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who happens to be a friend of Te'o. Tuiasosopo was also in a car accident just a month before Kekua's alleged accident. Sources told Deadspin that Tuiasosopo was the one behind the Kekua character, a theory that solves the conundrum of how Te'o had time to post all of the updates on social networks.
The telephone calls: Te'o said that he talked to Kekua on the phone every night. If he was indeed a victim of a hoax, there must have been a woman on the other end of the line. So far, there's been no evidence that this woman exists.