Christine Brennan, USA TODAY Sports 5:37 p.m. EST January 18, 2013
The peculiar mysteries at Notre Dame are almost too numerous to detail today, but one stands out among all the rest:
Why did the university show more public concern for a fake dead woman than a real one?
Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick actually teared up publicly Wednesday night when speaking about the bizarre story of Manti Te'o and his made-up dead girlfriend.
Did Swarbrick or any other Notre Dame official ever shed a tear for Lizzy Seeberg, a 19-year-old St. Mary's College freshman who committed suicide in September 2010 after accusing a Notre Dame football player of sexually assaulting her?
If they cried publicly for Seeberg, no camera caught it.
In fact, if they had even the remotest public interest in finding out what happened to her, and how the football team was involved, they have kept that a secret to this day.
After Seeberg accused a Notre Dame football player of sexually assaulting her, and after she wrote up a description of what happened, which she then gave to the campus police, Seeberg received a text message from a friend of the player:
"Don't do anything you would regret. Messing with notre dame football is a bad idea."
Little more than a week later, she committed suicide.
Then, and now, the allegations surrounding Seeberg's tragic death beg for answers. One might have thought that Notre Dame officials would have immediately launched a thorough investigation to find out exactly what happened, as Swarbrick said he did with the alleged Te'o hoax on Dec. 26.
But in the Seeberg tragedy, the opposite occurred. For more than a week after receiving Seeberg's account of the alleged attack, Notre Dame's campus police didn't even attempt to contact the player. For more than 2½ months, Seeberg's accusation and her death did not become public knowledge, until the Chicago Tribune broke the story.
Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, even refused to meet with members of Seeberg's family.
And what happened to the accused football player? He was not charged in the case, at least in part because Seeberg's written report was not admissible -- because it was hearsay, because she was dead.
What's more, the player has been a member of the football team all this time, and still was a member of the team that participated in last week's BCS national championship game, losing to Alabama, 42-14.
Even as Swarbrick went on and on in his news conference about how the naive Te'o had been duped and how much Notre Dame cared about him, there was one common denominator between the way Notre Dame handled the Seeberg and Te'o stories:
In neither situation have Swarbrick and other officials come close to coming clean. Swarbrick said Notre Dame knew on Dec. 26 that the Te'o story was a hoax. Yet Te'o continued to mention his dead girlfriend in interviews, and no one at Notre Dame apparently ever told one news outlet to avoid the topic, much less say why.
Swarbrick simply let the whole bizarre charade carry on for nearly two weeks to the BCS title game, then another week before Deadspin finally spilled the beans.
So now the Fighting Irish are embroiled in perhaps the most preposterous scandal to ever visit a college football team. Eventually we'll hear from Te'o, and more from Swarbrick, and probably get to the bottom of this strange tale.
Meanwhile, no one at Notre Dame bothers to mention the name Lizzy Seeberg much anymore.
They avoid her because she is much too real.