How Did Football Star Manti Te'o Get Catfished by a Fake Dead Girl? Six Theories to Explain the Year's Craziest Story

As nearly everyone in America knows by now, the heartbreaking and inspirational story of Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o and his dead girlfriend was a hoax. As Deadspin conclusively proved yesterday, "Lennay Kekua," whom Te'o claimed to have dated until her death from leukemia last fall, never existed. But if Kekua isn't real, then what happened? Was Te'o the hoax's victim, or its perpetrator, or something else entirely? We run down six of the most popular theories.

Manti Te'o Was Fully Hoaxed (Possibly by Someone Who Wanted to Be on MTV's Internet-Fakery Show 'Catfish')

Proposed by: This is the official Notre Dame story, according to endorsed by Te'o himself.
Evidence for: Recently un-deleted Twitter accounts that were apparently associated with the hoax seemed to imply that Te'o was being fooled. On a few occasions, those same accounts reached out to Catfish, the MTV show centered around people in online relationships meeting their counterparts for the first time, and.
Evidence against: Te'o lied to the press about meeting Kekua in person, well before he was supposedly made aware of her nonexistence. Several times.

Manti Te'o Was Being Catfished and Figured It Out, But Didn't Come Clean Until after the Heisman Was Announced So He Wouldn't Hurt His Chances

Proposed by: Notre Dame students and some of Te'o's teammates.
Evidence for: According to Notre Dame gossip, Te'o had relationships with other women, and most of his teammates understood his dead girlfriend to be a publicity stunt. Even according to Notre Dame's official version of events, Te'o learned that Kekua wasn't real on December 6 — the week before Heisman results were announced. Two days later, on December 8, he gave an interview in which he talked about his girlfriend Lennay. He didn't tell the college he'd been fooled until December 26, two weeks after the Heisman announcement.
Evidence against: By December 6, Heisman voting had already been over for a month. Te'o couldn't have hurt his chances at winning the trophy, though he certainly could've overshadowed a win.

Manti Te'o Made Up a Girlfriend With the Help of a Friend, Killed Her Off to Get Rid of the Problem, Pimped the Story to Juice His Heisman Chances

Proposed by: A friend of of likely hoaxer Ronaiah Tuiascopo.
Evidence for: Te'o lied to reporters several times about Kekua and, as noted above, gave at least one interview about her even after the "official" date on which he learned he'd been hoaxed. The unnamed friend told Deadspin he was "80 percent sure" that Te'o and Tuiascopo had perpetrated the hoax together "with publicity in mind."
Evidence against: If Te'o thought he'd gotten away with it — he came in second in Heisman voting — why come clean to Notre Dame at all?

Manti Te'o Is Gay and the "Hoaxer" Is His Boyfriend

Proposed by: Lavar Arrington and Chad Dukes
Evidence for: Te'o and Tuiascopo are devoutly religious football players — two subcultures not known for their friendliness to same-sex attraction. The hoax could have been a way for the two to be publicly affectionate without being open about their relationship.
Evidence against: A lot of — most — closeted gay people in relationships manage to maintain lives without constructing elaborate, highly public, fictional relationships with leukemia patients.

Lennay Kekua Was a Real Person and She Hung Out With Cardinals Fullback Reagan Maui'a

Proposed by: Cardinals fullback Reagan Maui'a.
Evidence for: Cardinals fullback Reagan Maui'a told ESPN that he met Lennay Kekua. "She was tall," he said.
Evidence against: She met a bunch of Polynesian NFL stars, but not Troy Polamalu? Shyeah.

Deadspin Hoaxed Manti Te'o "for Website Clicks"

Proposed by: Deadspin commenter ADAP2k, Gary in Garfield (left)
Evidence for: "[J]ust look at Deadspin after breaking this story... Constantly piling on this guy, and trying to embarrass him as much as possible without even knowing the entire story... Deadspin's aggressive nature on this story is almost as bizarre as the story itself."
Evidence against: The Deadspin guys aren't nearly smart enough to pull this off.

Image by Jim Cooke.