Notre Dame Stands By Star Football Player Manti Te’o — And Abandons Any Sense Of Ethics

200px-Mantiteo2010Notre Dame’s athletic director Jack Swarbrick has given a tearful account of how he has determined that his football star Manti Te’o was a victim of being “catfishes” in mourning the death of a girlfriend who never in fact existed. I must confess an insurmountable level of skepticism regarding Te’o’s account, but I am more concerned not with his veracity (which seem entirely gone) but with the ethics of Notre Dame. Even without considering the Catholic values of the university, the response of the University to this matter is predictable and depressing given the known facts. We have previously discussed how football programs warp the academic mission and ethics of universities. This appears to be a towering example of the corrosive effect of such programs. Notre Dame admitted that it was made aware of the hoax but said nothing as reporters gushed over the bravery of Te’o in facing the death of the “love of his life.” Yet, the university insists that it had no obligation to tell the truth during the season while Te’o was being considered for the Heisman Trophy. Moreover, it concluded that Te’o had no ethical obligation to come forward immediately with the truth — even if we accept that he did not know that the “love of his life” did not exist.

Swarbrick’s position forgiving Te’o (and the university) of responsibility is most notable not only in the suspending of any notion of logic but any obligation of ethics. Let’s assume for a moment that Te’o never knew that his girlfriend did not exist despite the fact that he could never have actually met her. Indeed, while reporting that she died of cancer, he never appears to have gone to “the love of his life” in person. The university admits that he told them during the season that it was a hoax. Yet, he and Notre Dame remained silent as published accounts discussed how he met her at a football game and poured sympathy on his loss and that of his grandmother on the same day. It was the biggest personal story in the college football season. It was a story that clearly would have helped in the competition for the Heisman Trophy — a huge benefit for both the player and the school. This is not some collateral fact or something subject to interpretation. It was the core of a national sensational story and it was entirely untrue.

Yet Swarbrick expressed only shock of the “casual cruelty” shown by the hoaxsters saying “they enjoyed the joke.” Perhaps, but Notre Dame enjoyed the attention generated by the story –after they learned it was a lie.

Notre Dame emphasizes that students must meet high ethical standards as part of their education.

However, when the student is your football star, the University appears to believe that failing to come forward to admit the truth is not an unethical act for either the student or university officials. Notably, the student gave interviews of how his girlfriend was the most beautiful person he “ever met” and not just “her physical beauty.” His interviews fueled a frenzy among reporters who did countless pieces on the terrible loss. The tearful account of Swarbrick brushed over the period where he admits that the university knew the truth and did nothing. Swarbricks’ insistence that they made the decision that this was Te’o “story to be told.” That is highly convenient for the university and notably jettisons any responsibility to stop the lie from being repeated and replicated.

As an academic, I view the position of the university to be reprehensible and devoid of any ethical content. It tells students that there is no obligation to come forward when you know of such a falsity and that there is no institutional or personal responsibility for acts of omission. This is not simply a betrayal of Catholic value it is a betrayal of core academic values in my view.

What do you think?

Source: ABC

59 thoughts on “Notre Dame Stands By Star Football Player Manti Te’o — And Abandons Any Sense Of Ethics”

  1. OK, Te’o had a fake girlfriend and she died?

    1. How does that make him get more awards?
    2. Since everybody would be sad if she died after she was real, aren’t we all glad that she only died after she was mythical?
    3. If she wasn’t Te’o’s girlfriend, who (other than Te’o) was harmed by her unbeing?
    4. Now that she’s dead, isn’t it MOOT whether she was alive before she was dead?
    5. Is there life before death?
    6. Aren’t we glad, considering that she was not in existence, that she didn’t marry Te’o and then get divorced? OMG!
    7. What if she wasn’t, then she married Te’o, then he divorced her and she didn’t appear in court; would she be defaulted? Would she be in contempt?
    8. If they had kids, who wouldn’t get THEM?
    9. If they had several cryogenic test tubes empty of fertilized eggs, whose wouldn’t THEY be? Would they get guardians ad litem?

  2. @Yvonne: The ethical course of action for Notre Dame would be to

    a) do nothing, the sex life of their students is none of their business,
    b) if the student confessed to lying to the public, insist upon making that public as soon as possible. They could have done that with some sensitivity and simultaneously with announcing counseling for the student as a condition for remaining on their football team.

    For example, “It has come to our attention that one of our student players, for his own personal reasons, lied to others about his personal life. When those lies became amplified by the media, the student became enmeshed in an escalating spiral of covering lies. The student came to us and asked us for help on his own, and that is help we will provide in the form of professional psychological counseling. The student has agreed to this counseling, as a condition of remaining on the team. The original lie was to invent a fictional girlfriend, the escalation of cover lies culminated in her fictional death. The student player was Te’o. Although it is not Notre Dame policy to police the personal relationships of our students, Notre Dame apologizes on behalf of Te’o to the media, our fans, and our students, and we have advised Te’o to refrain from interviews and statements on this matter until his counseling sessions are completed, approximately six months from now. His agreement to do so is also a condition of his remaining on the team. Thank you for your understanding in this matter.”

    I would instruct the spokesman, if the opportunity arose, to defend Notre Dame thusly: “We take these actions in light of the fact that we believe Te’o invented this fiction to avoid personal embarrassment, but he did not endanger anybody or change the outcome of any games or grades. It was an ethical and character failing on his part. However, speaking only for ourselves, as professionals we approach such problems with empathy and concern and harbor no anger toward Te’o, we believe he has presented with a problem and we hope to help him overcome it.”

    That’s my first draft, anyway, of what should have been done, it has largely the same outcome; Notre Dame keeps the player on the field.

    Run it by the lawyers to make sure I am not exposing Notre Dame to any liability.

  3. Suppose, as seems most plausible, that Te’o was and is GAY. He needed a phony girlfriend to fit in. Suppose Notre Dame’s AD knew or suspected that Te’o was and is GAY. What would have been the ethical course for the AD? Of course, I do not believe that most of the people associated with making money through college sports even can spell the word ‘ETHICAL” – let alone follow the ethical course. College football is a big entertainment BUSINESS. Most of the players are pawns. They may suffer life=long injuries – including concussions. Only a few can hope to cash in themselves by getting to “the next level.”

  4. And now it seems that Te’o was scammed. How does that change things? Is it now ok that Te’o and ND kept quiet about the fake gf? Should Te’o’s chances at the Heisman be jeopardized by exposure of the fake gf who he really thought was real?

    Such practical jokes are not funny. They mess with people’s lives.


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  6. Darren,

    Ahhh. Thanks for that correction. I always confuse the the “C” and “K” spellings. But you have to admit, it’s an easy mistake to make. :mrgreen:

  7. Gene:

    I think Pete was talking about scary looking bipedal lizards that nobody can trust, not the aliens that fly around in spaceships.

  8. pete,

    I thought the Kardashian homeworld was mostly wiped out after they aligned with the Dominion and declared war on Bajor and the Federation?

  9. why are we worried about something as trivial as this when kim kardashian may be pregnant?

  10. I wonder if Manti along with ND felt a sense of relief that he didn’t win the Heisman award?

  11. I agree with Tony C. This State Penn thing really pushed me over the edge on the sports thing. Frats and Sororities should go too. School is too expensive. Students should go to community college and then to a decent priced school for years three and four. Back when I was a humanoid I went the whole other way. Private college, frat boy, fun but great teachers. sports was Div III so no BS there. Then it was inexpensive on today’s costs. Less than fifteen hundred for tuition one year. Now, same place is thirty Grand. Not worth it under any circumstance now. Frat boy life was BS.

    State universities: Take a place like Mizzou. Yeah, they actually call it that now. They just moved over to the South Eastern Conference to be with the best. What does it do for the university? Rah Rah? I would encourage a student to go to UMKC in Kansas City for undergrad and law school. Not Columbia.

  12. The goal of education should be teaching students to man up or woman up, I think. Regarding the football player, the proverb, there is one law for the rich and a different law for the poor applies.

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