I think it’s safe to say that Notre Dame fans thought losing the National Championship would be the low point of the season. After losing by four touchdowns on college football’s largest stage, I, for one, hoped that I would be able to crawl into my college football cave, shed some tears for a season that ended all wrong, and reemerge in September ready to march onward to victory. I thought it had gotten as bad as it could get. That was 11 days ago.
9 days ago: Brian Kelly began to interview for NFL coaching positions. Immediately Notre Dame fans feared the worst: that Kelly was abandoning ship after the embarrassing loss at The Ship. Though I was confident that Defensive Coordinator Bob Diaco could make a strong choice to follow Kelly when and if he left, Kelly leaving was obviously not ideal on many levels. One such level was that incoming recruits to Notre Dame might get spooked.
8 days ago: So it was with heavy hearts that Irish fans read Alex Anzalone—a 4-star recruit ranked 5th in the nation at outside linebacker—de-committed from Notre Dame and enrolled early at Florida. This dropped our overall recruiting class from No.1 to No. 2, as Florida swooped into the No. 1 spot with our coveted LB recruit in tow. Ouch. Five days later, Kelly announced he'd be staying with the Irish - so the delay cost the school a recruit.
2 days ago: Then came the Manti Te’o hoax story. To say this story is bizarre does not even begin to describe the media madness that Irish fans, sports fans, and the general public have gone through in the past 48 hours. Names, facts, dates and stories have begun to blur together. No two stories truly match up and no one knows what exactly to believe. Or which story is the honest truth.
For a while, though, it looked bad… for Manti and for Notre Dame. With the new details that have come out today—the man behind the fake ‘Lennay Kekua’ supposedly admitted to a friend in December that he had duped Te’o and that a man now claims his cousin was a victim of this same hoax from the same perpetrator years ago—those who believe that Manti had nothing to do with the hoax can take a deep breath. Though Manti still has many questions to answer—and the longer he puts off his press conference the worse he looks—I think these new developments support his story that he was, in fact, the victim here.
And the worst part is that this isn’t nearly the end for Notre Dame; there will undoubtedly be many more twists in the hoax story and Notre Dame will somehow be involved with every one of them. Whether we are thrown under the bus for not announcing the story before it broke as a full-fledged scandal, questioned for not looking further into the life of ‘Lennay Kekua,’ or constantly mentioned alongside the juicy inquiry that Manti’s love life has become, Notre Dame can expect much more ESPN screen time and many more opinionated observers.
Sure, after 13 weeks of regular season glory, the Irish were probably due for a rut or two… or five. But even through the disappointment, disbelief, and disaster that has been the life of a Notre Dame fan since January 7th, the dedication and loyalty of the Irish still lives on.