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‘Catfish’ Star Nev Schulman Dives Into Manti Te’o Case

Manti Te'o (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) and "Catfish" T-shirt (credit: CrosstownNY.com)

Manti Te’o (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) and “Catfish” T-shirt (credit: CrosstownNY.com)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – So it looks like Manti Te’o might have been “Catfished,” huh?

The Notre Dame linebacker — this year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up, expected to go in the first round of the NFL draft — dealt with the death of his girlfriend for much of the Irish’s magical run to the BCS championship game.

Or did he?

Deadspin.com published an extensive report on Wednesday that said the football star’s girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never actually existed.

While addressing the dead girlfriend hoax during a press conference on Wednesday evening, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick compared the situation that Te’o finds himself in to MTV’s “Catfish” and its predecessor — a documentary with the same name.

“I would refer all of you, if you’re not already familiar with it, with both the documentary called ‘Catfish’ and the MTV show —  which is a derivative of that documentary — and the sort of associated things you’ll find online and otherwise about ‘Catfish’ or ‘catfishing,’” Swarbrick said. “It is a scam that follows the exact arc of this. And it’s perpetrated with shocking frequency, for me — shocking as an older guy who’s not as versed in the online world.”

The term “catfish” is used to refer to someone who, using some form of social media, pretends to be somebody that they’re not via a false identity. “Catfishing” tends to be associated with fake online romances.

“Catfish” was a documentary film directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost in 2010. The film focused on Nev Schulman, who found that his “girlfriend,” with whom he engaged in an online relationship with, was in fact lying about who she really was.

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Then in Nov. 2012, MTV began to air a show based on the documentary. “Catfish: The TV Show” is in fact hosted by Nev Schulman, and his role in the program is to investigate such hoaxes and suspicious situations.

Schulman is determined to get to the bottom of the matter, and on Wednesday night he tweeted: “I am working on finding out more about this @MTeo_5 #Catfish story. I have been in contact with the woman involved and will get the truth.”

Not surprisingly, Te’o’s connection to “catfishing” has taken on a life of its own, and local apparel brand Crosstown New York has made a T-shirt that reads “Catfished Like A Champion Today.”

Crosstown New York "Catfish" T-shirt (credit: CrosstownNY.com)

Crosstown New York “Catfish” T-shirt (credit: CrosstownNY.com)

Schulman wrote Thursday morning that two Twitter users were allegedly in on the hoax.

“Update: @jayRahz & @ceeweezy51 knew all along — However this #Manti story ends, it doesn’t change that we are all the victims of a #Catfish,” he tweeted.

In another twist to the story, NFL player Reagan Mauia said on Wednesday night that he met Kekua in person during an outreach trip with Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers and others in June 2011.

Was Te’o in on the hoax or was he indeed “catfished”?

We may never know.

Do you think Schulman will be able to uncover the truth? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…