Manti Te'o's fake dead girlfriend is not the only hoax rocking the Notre Dame football program today. The program's 2013 recruiting class — currently ranked 3rd by ESPN and 4th by Scout — is also not real.
"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with recruits I met online," said head coach Brian Kelly. "We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about them. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."
The hoax leaves Notre Dame without a single recruit for 2013, a development that will greatly impact the depth and future of the program.
"I smelled something fishy months ago," said one recruiting expert. "Notre Dame had a good season, but it was still their first good season in decades. There was no reason they should have been getting recruits of that level over one good season. Still, though, I didn't expect anything like this."
Kelly reportedly began receiving recruiting tapes from supposed high school stars in the late summer. He was wowed by what he saw and followed up with the "recruits," who quickly committed to Notre Dame. It turns out the highlights were of other players and that all the names were fictional. Investigators believe the hoax was perpetrated by a man in Tuscaloosa, Ala., named Nick.
Notre Dame's head coach admits that he never actually met any of the recruits.
"I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year," said Kelly. "To think that I shared with them my happiness about my recruits and details that I thought to be true about them just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been. In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was."