Sunday, June 24, 2018
Colleges

Q&A with St. Petersburg man who helped break story of Manti Te'o's fictional girlfriend

Wednesday's huge revelation from Deadspin.com — that the sad story of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o's girlfriend dying of leukemia in September was a huge hoax and that she never existed — was co-written by St. Petersburg resident Timothy Burke, who has been an editor at Deadspin since October 2011 and had spent much of the previous five days reporting the story with Deadspin writer Jack Dickey, who is a student at Columbia.

Burke, 34, is working on a doctorate in communications from USF, he's on Twitter at @bubbaprog and he also runs a blog, 30fps.mocksession.com, that has a cult following for its archive of screengrabs and video captures from TV. After a Skype appearance on CNN to speak with Anderson Cooper about the story on Wednesday night, he talked to the Times about his story.

It must be a strange and still proud acknowledgement, to see your story rolling along the ticker on ESPN as great publicity for Deadspin.

It's just bizarre to me. We had ESPN on downstairs all night, and every time I go down there, in the corner, "BREAKING NEWS: Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend did not exist." What a bizarre statement. Think about how crazy that is. That's so weird to me.

Take me back as much as you can to how this started, and all the reporting that led to this story.

We got an anonymous e-mail Friday that said, "Hey, there's something sketchy about Manti Te'o's girlfriend. You should check it out." I was actually out with (wife) Lynn somewhere in western Hillsborough County at an orange grove at the time. Both Jack Dickey and our editor-in-chief, Tommy Craggs, were messaging me frantically. "Can you check in on this?'

What do you do when you're looking for information?

To start, you go to Google. We googled "Lennay" and you find Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend. Nothing about her from before she was dead. That's a little strange. We went into, "Does she exist?" Did she go to Stanford? We called Stanford, got copies of their yearbooks, knew she wasn't a graduate, finally got word she had never attended. Does this person exist in any Social Security records? No. The Associated Press said she was buried in Carson, Calif., so we called every mortuary and funeral home in Carson. Any word? No. It just continued to go from there. Every point we looked for evidence that she existed, there was none.

Notre Dame came out Wednesday night very much in defense of Te'o, saying he was the victim of a hoax and not complicit at all, though there certainly seem to be lies from him and family members in terms of him saying he had met a girlfriend when he had a relationship exclusively online and by phone. What do you make of that?

I think they did Manti Te'o a huge disservice, as I think him releasing a statement did himself a disservice. This is a situation where nothing you can say is going to improve your situation. Every time you give a reaction, it keeps the news cycle focused on the embarrassing story. I think it would be better for Te'o if he'd come out and said, "Yeah, I set it up to win the Heisman." Whether he did or not, for his professional career, it would have been better for him to show he was cunning and clever and smart. He's a middle linebacker who has to show he can be cold and calculating. Instead, he told everyone he was a patsy. If I'm an NFL GM, that doesn't sound good to me. I would not have published any response, let it go away.

For more of the interview, visit Greg Auman's blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls.

Comments
Brady Singer, Gators eliminated by Arkansas at CWS

Brady Singer, Gators eliminated by Arkansas at CWS

Times wiresOMAHA, Neb.  —Defending champion Florida failed to win a third straight elimination game, losing to Arkansas 5-2 Friday night and departing the College World Series.The Gators (49-21) had to win to force a rematch. The Razorback...
Published: 06/22/18
Florida eliminates Texas Tech at College World Series, faces Arkansas for title-round spot

Florida eliminates Texas Tech at College World Series, faces Arkansas for title-round spot

OMAHA, Neb. — JJ Schwarz hit a two-run homer and Florida built enough cushion to survive Texas Tech's six-run outburst over the seventh and eighth innings to eliminate the Red Raiders from the College World Series with a 9-6 win Thursday night....
Published: 06/22/18
Florida State will host Florida Gators to open this basketball season

Florida State will host Florida Gators to open this basketball season

For the first time in almost two decades, Florida and Florida State will open the men's basketball season against each other.The Seminoles will host UF on Nov. 6, both programs announced Wednesday morning. FSU has won four in a row in the series."Any...
Published: 06/20/18
With starting QB Josh Jackson’s status resolved, FSU will open against full-strength Hokies

With starting QB Josh Jackson’s status resolved, FSU will open against full-strength Hokies

Florida State's primetime opener against Virginia Tech looks a little tougher now than it did a few days ago.Hokies starting quarterback Josh Jackson has had his academic eligibility resolved and remains on the team, the Roanoke Times reported Tuesda...
Published: 06/19/18
As USF-Yuengling bond grows, is SEC’s alcohol stance slowly shifting?

As USF-Yuengling bond grows, is SEC’s alcohol stance slowly shifting?

USF's expanded partnership with Yuengling — including naming rights to the Sun Dome — is only the latest part in an evolving relationship between college sports and alcohol, as my colleague, Joey Knight, wrote on the front page ...
Published: 06/18/18
Florida’s Brady Singer voted top college baseball player of year

Florida’s Brady Singer voted top college baseball player of year

OMAHA, Neb. — Florida pitcher Brady Singer has won the Dick Howser Trophy as college baseball's player of the year.Singer, who received the award Friday, carries a 12-1 record and 2.30 ERA into the College World Series, which begins Saturday. T...
Published: 06/15/18
Former Plant QB Rex Culpepper cancer-free; ready to return to Syracuse lineup

Former Plant QB Rex Culpepper cancer-free; ready to return to Syracuse lineup

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Rex Culpepper is back. The smile on his face said it all. The redshirt sophomore quarterback had his first full workout with Syracuse on Friday after overcoming testicular cancer. He said he broke down and cried when he was told he w...
Published: 06/15/18
Willie Taggart comes clean on the origin of ‘Do Something’

Willie Taggart comes clean on the origin of ‘Do Something’

During his question-and-answer session with more than 500 Manatee-Sarasota boosters Monday evening, FSU's Willie Taggart was peppered with the normal inquiries about recruiting, offensive scheme and the Seminoles' quarterback derby.All well and good....
Published: 06/12/18
When Willie Taggart filled in for Tommie Frazier at Manatee High

When Willie Taggart filled in for Tommie Frazier at Manatee High

It would have been easy — expected, even — for Willie Taggart to be nervous when he started in place of the injured Tommie Frazier as Manatee High's starting quarterback in 1991.Nope. Taggart wasn't, even though he was the first...
Published: 06/12/18
FSU football coach Willie Taggart gets local hero’s welcome

FSU football coach Willie Taggart gets local hero’s welcome

SARASOTA — He slithered and scrambled his way into the local consciousness in the fall of 1991.Manatee High's Willie Taggart, 145 pounds in a sopping jersey, suddenly found himself with the keys to the Hurricanes' ruthlessly efficient opti...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/12/18