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The Real Notre Dame Scandal

[ 94 ] January 17, 2013 |

Irin Carmon is making sense:

Less than a day into the Manti Te’o revelations, we’ve heard more about a fake dead girlfriend of a Notre Dame football player than a real dead girl. Lizzy Seeberg committed suicide, not long after being intimidated by Notre Dame football players for reporting a sexual assault by one of their teammates. A second woman who was taken to the hospital for a rape exam declined to formally accuse another Notre Dame football player after getting a series of bullying texts from players.

The handful of people who immediately took note of the contrast in the attention — both by the press and by the university — are absolutely right to be angry. But no one should be surprised.


We all have heard by now how denial and institutional culture contributed to Jerry Sandusky’s ability to continue assaulting young boys for years, under cover of the Penn State football program. But once that was exposed, it was rightly considered an unambiguous evil. The sexual assault of women can and is often explained away — including the Notre Dame donor who justified his continued support to Henneberger by saying that Seeberg had been sexually aggressive, that “she was all over the boy.” In other words, it’s not just the players who are banding together around their brothers whether they’re rapists or not; it’s the adults around them who are turning a blind eye because they consider other things more important. And they’re willing to believe anything except that these nice boys can be rapists.

Whether or not Te’o was in on the con, the media went out of its way to spread a myth that held up about as well a “Hack Heaven” under inspection. Combined with the general Notre Dame hype machine that gets bad coaches books written about them if they can have one decent year against a tomato can schedule, it very nearly got a good-not-great interior linebacker the Heisman Trophy. When it comes to accusations of sexual assault that are actually credible and have resulted in the death of at least one woman, alas, the ethos reflected by Gene “I print what Notre Dame tells me to irrespective of whether the story makes sense or has any independent verification” Wojciechowski is equally strong in the sports media. Despite the immense coverage Notre Dame receives, as Nicky Santoro would say when it comes to something that might be important somehow somebody’s always lookin’ the other way. And once revealed by some journalists who were actually doing their job, the relatively harmless scandal will still get vastly more attention than the ones involving sexual assault, intimidation, and suicide.

…see also Katie Baker.  In context the blubbering about how Te’o was a “victim” is pretty hard to stomach.

…as a commenter reminds me, I should note that Deadspin didn’t just embarrass ESPN on the Te’o story; they’ve covered the Notre Dame rape scandals as well.

…and yet more from the always brilliant M.S.S.


Comments (94)

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  1. John Protevi says:

    This piece by Dave Zirin at The Nation is good too. See also the comment by “wwilson” on ND knowing about this on Dec 26.

  2. laslo says:

    Touchdown Jesus wept.

  3. Don’t forget the dead videographer!

    • drkrick says:

      Either this or the Seeberg case should have been enough to get Kelly fired immediately. What’s even worse than the fact that he didn’t is that it’s not even a surprise that he didn’t.

  4. sleepyirv says:

    I’m shocked, SHOCKED, that the man bites dog story is getting more coverage.

    • John says:

      I think it’s a reasonable point to say that it’s wrong that the original, false, “Manti Te’o has a dead girlfriend” story got more attention than the rape allegations (although I have no idea if that’s true).

      I don’t think it’s reasonable to say that it’s wrong that the bizarre story of a ludicrous hoax is getting more attention than the depressingly familiar story of college athletes sexually assaulting women. Of course the ludicrous hoax will get more attention! It’s a fascinating and bizarre story.

  5. “Whether or not Te’o was in on the con, the media went out of its way to spread a myth that held up about as well a “Hack Heaven” under inspection.”

    That’s definitely the bigger story, and obviously the one that won’t get nearly as much attention. ESPN, Sports Illustrated, NBC, et al didn’t so much as try to find a friend of hers from Stanford, a family member, nothing. It was too good to check. Whether Te’o was massively naive (possible if unlikely) or scamming everyone (a behavior for which the extrovert pious are well noted), he’s still just a very young football player who became nationally famous at an age when most of are probably glad we weren’t. Those big media hype machines (who, by the way, are the ones that actually profited off of this) are run by adults who don’t have even the flimsiest of excuses.

    • Darkrose says:

      Worse, when Wojciechowski discovered that there was no obituary or police report about the car accident, instead of digging, he dropped it because Manti was so obviously suffering.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      Sports writers are not journalists.

      They are the guys at the end of the bar at your neighborhood tavern with slightly better writing skills and greater drive to share in the reflected sports glory up close and personal.

      They are part of the entertainment package. If you understand that, the rest of the pattern in this situation and others (like HoF voting, etc.) makes perfect sense.

      The only thing you need to keep political, business, or sports writers in line is a good free buffet, unlimited coffee, wifi, and comfortable accommodations when they have to travel with the candidate, CEO, or sports team.

  6. J.W. Hamner says:

    Writing about a rape case within a prominent football program gets you hate mail while writing saccharine sweet hagiographies wins you awards and book deals. In addition, as we’ve seen, nobody checks the facts of hagiographies… whereas taking a stand on a criminal case means you can be proven wrong… very publicly.

  7. CashandCable says:

    While the quality of Manti Te’o’s play can be debated, he was definitely an inside linebacker, not an “interior lineman”.

  8. B from STL says:

    Longtime reader…blah, blah, blah…
    The amount of stupid in this post is crazy! Te’o played interior lineman?! Really Scott? Tomato can schedule? Really?
    I was in the PO, at the time. The reporting of Zirin and Carmone is completely wrong on what occurred in the Seeburg case.
    I understand big-time football and I understand the power it has in a community like South Bend…but I would like to believe that you all would at least not comment on something you have no clue about…
    I also have no clue about T’eo…I cannot tell you what went done there(its crazy and has to many inconsistencies). But I can affirmatively say that the reporting of Henneberger and others has been slanted, agenda-driven, and quite honestly, full of crap.
    You would think that a football program that has the highest GSR in the country should be celebrated…pretty weak sauce here, Scott.
    I think you are better than this….

    • witless chum says:

      If your going to impugn their reporting, maybe you should favor us with the nickel version of what’s wrong with it?

    • John says:

      Okay, bad Notre Dame coaches with books written about their good records against weak schedules.

      1. Charlie Weis, 2005

      Notre Dame beat 3 ranked teams: Pittsburgh (finished the season unranked with a 5-6 record), Michigan (finished the season an unranked 7-5 with a big upset against Penn State and some other okay wins), and Purdue (finished the season 5-6 with no wins over ranked teams). Notre Dame also lost to actual good teams USC and Ohio State, and to highly mediocre Michigan State. The other teams it beat are Washington (2-9), BYU (6-6), Tennessee (5-6), Navy (7-4, but with a very weak schedule), Syracuse (1-10), and Stanford (5-6).

      So the only bowl bound teams Notre Dame beat were Michigan (who had an underwhelming year), BYU (who did not have a winning record), and Navy (super week schedule). They beat no teams who were ranked at the end of the season. How is that not a tomato can schedule?

    • Anonymous says:

      You would think that a football program that has the highest GSR in the country should be celebrated

      Yea verily, for what is institutional responsibility for rape, suicide and manslaughter compared to a high graduation rate?

      jesus christ

    • sharculese says:

      Polanski’s Law: for every allegation of rape, there will be an equal and opposite expression of profound disappointment from someone who just wishes we would all be more suspicious of the motivations of everyone involved.

      • sharculese says:

        But for real, why I am supposed to some random dude who can’t even be bothered to speak in complete thoughts over Irin Carmon, a reporter whose work has always been of high quality?

    • spencer says:

      Tomato can schedule? Really?

      I don’t know about previous years, but it was sure as shit true last season. They played a Big-10-heavy schedule (that didn’t include Ohio State), USC, Pittsburgh, and would have lost to Stanford if the officiating had been even the slightest bit competent.

    • John Protevi says:

      I was in the PO, at the time. The reporting of Zirin and Carmone is completely wrong on what occurred in the Seeburg case.

      But I won’t tell you what really happened in “the Seeburg case” because it’s double top secret classified and I would have to kill you if I told you, that’s how much an insider I am.

    • commie atheist says:

      I love the smell of rape apologetics in the morning.

      • B from STL says:

        I can’t help either of you… if you can’t read.

        • mark f says:

          And you can’t count. And you haven’t actually said anything. This has been illuminating; I’m convinced.

          • B from STL says:

            Well- I did set out this morning to help you through your day, Mark. Glad I could help….

          • commie atheist says:

            Yup – “trust me on this as I’m privy to the real true story and everyone in the media is just making shit up” always works for me.

            • B from STL says:

              As I told Mark…I am here for your edification.

            • sharculese says:

              Yup – “trust me on this as I’m privy to the real true story and everyone in the media is just making shit up” always works for me.

              Especially when your subliterate sniveling is paired up against actual people with actual records of credibility.

              • B from STL says:

                Haha. Ok. Believe everything you read.
                Insert witty Fox News joke here…

                • sharculese says:

                  Ignoring the fact that I’m 90% certain we’re being trolled (although why and for what reason I’m not clear on), isn’t that what you’re asking us to do? Believe what you’re saying (or at the very least assume it must have some basis in fact) despite your complete lack of credibility?

                  Your half-assed snark does not advance the argument you seem to want it to.

                • Anonymous says:

                  He hasn’t even made any claims.

                  He thinks the on-line equivalent of eyebrow-wriggling, theatrical coughing, and sticking the index finger of one hand in the hole of the other at a dead woman is enough to convince us of Lying Bitchez.

                • sharculese says:

                  He thinks the on-line equivalent of eyebrow-wriggling, theatrical coughing, and sticking the index finger of one hand in the hole of the other at a dead woman is enough to convince us of Lying Bitchez.

                  *phraseology phistbump*

  9. DrDick says:

    Sadly, this is not unique to Notre Dame, but reflects a broader problem with the way big time collegiate athletics is treated both by the institutions and by the press.

  10. Crackity Jones says:

    The real story is the fake girlfriend was used to cover up the fact that he’s gay. Has there been an openly gay college football star? Imagine one at Notre Dame.

    • NonyNony says:

      If this actually turns out to be true, he’ll gain a lot of sympathy from a number of places.

      Also – the “gay Mormon Notre Dame player fakes a girlfriend to hide his sexuality” storyline will be produced as a movie that wins more Oscars than anything ever previously produced.

      • NonyNony says:

        Although to add – if this is true, he’s a moron. This is probably the worst way to fake an internet girlfriend to hide something. Better to have a fake “big fight” and then tell people she’s left him if he needs to end it than fake a death. It might eventually come out anyway, but you’re far less likely that anyone – even Gawker Inc. – would bother looking into “college football player dumps/gets dumped by girlfriend” than looking into whether the “inspiring story” of his grandmother and girlfriend both dying in the same day and him rising to the challenge and playing anyway was actually true or not.

        • witless chum says:

          Somehow I think Mante “huge football star at ND” Te’o could recruit a walking, talking lady to play his beard, if he was so inclined. If this was part of a closet, it’s a really, really stupid part. Like those according doors at my old apartment that never stayed on their track and scared the cat half to death with their horrible sounds.

      • njorl says:

        Call it “Lineback Mountain”.

    • mark f says:

      It occurred to me while reading the story yesterday, but Deadspin highlighted reporting today about his teammates thinking it was all crap. Not to this extent, necessarily, but they had “the feeling that Manti didn’t deserve to benefit from publicity from the death of somebody he barely knew” and knew “he has had relations with other girls during his time at Notre Dame.”

  11. JBJ says:

    Nice job by Deadspin. I wonder if Buzz Bissinger will weigh in with his thoughts on the Te’o matter.

  12. Andrew says:

    OT: our old friend Treason-In-Defense-Of-Slavery Yankee is helpfully informing us that right-wing freedom fighters are capable of patriotically blowing up their fellow Americans’ electric utilities in response to new murder toy regulations.

  13. rea says:

    You know, this is a bit unfair–Te’o, as far as we know, did not sexually assault anyone or cover up a sexual assault. Te’o had nothing to do with Lizzy Seeberg–evaluate the two cases seperately and on their own merits. Do not say what this post appears to be suggesting, that Te’o is less credible because of the Seeberg case.

  14. CaptBackslap says:

    Bomani Jones talks about the rape coverup for awhile amidst his episode about the whole Te’o episode (at The Evening Jones).

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