TODAY   |  January 26, 2013

Notre Dame: Manti Te’o controversy a ‘personal’ matter

When football star Manti Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend hoax exploded publicly two weeks ago, he said he was a victim. University officials say they believe him, and that they don’t view the fiasco as a criminal matter. NBC’s Mike Taibbi reports.

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>>> notre dame officials are playing defense when it comes to their star linebacker, manti te'o. the embarrassmenting hoax involving him -- embarrassing hoax involved him that turned out to be a fake girlfriend. in a letter, the school says the controversy is a personal matter, not a criminal one. here's more.

>>> manti te'o, thank you for being here today.

>> reporter: in his first televised interviewer, one went told katie couric he'd been had, the victim of a prank. now notre dame president reverend john jenkins says in a letter to trustees obtained by the associated press a prank is all it was, nothing criminal. "this matter was personal to manti." he told couric what he told officials, that his online girlfriend was actually the picture of a stranger used without permission and accompanied by a hoaxster's voice.

>> "i love you so much, hun. sweet dreams ."

>> reporter: he said when he was told in september that she'd lost her battle against leukemia, he played on because she'd wanted him to. a big storyline in notre dame 's storybook season.

>> what i went through was real. the feelings, the pain, the sorrow, that -- that was all real. that's something that like i can't fake.

>> reporter: his pain turned to confusion and humiliation on december 6, he said, when his supposedly dead girlfriend called him.

>> my whole reality was that she was -- she was dead, and all of a sudden she's alive. at that time, i didn't know that it was just somebody's prank.

>> reporter: in fact, notre dame 's private investigation did not conclude until a forensic computer expert found the proof that te'o's girlfriend dead or alive had never existed. te'o had repeated a lie about one part of the story saying he'd actually met the girlfriend he'd only known on line.

>> what would everybody think? what are you going to tell everybody who follow you, who you've inspired, what are you going to say?

>> reporter: what he said to notre dame was that he'd been the victim of a hoax that had spun out of control in the months of an historic football season. it's personal, the university has concluded, nothing criminal, no ncaa violations. notre dame 's investigation now over.