In response to a damning Deadspin report Wednesday debunking the existence of his girlfriend who died during the season, Notre Dame senior linebacker Manti Te'o released a statement saying he was the "victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies."
Immediately, people began to cry "Catfish," referring to the 2011 film documenting the story of a young photographer who fell in love with a woman he met on Facebook, and as the relationship intensified, he realized that the woman wasn't who she said she was.
One of the people crying "Catfish" was Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame's athletic director, who held a press conference Wednesday night to address the scandal. When asked whether Te'o was behind the hoax, Swarbrick replied:
I would refer all of you, if you're not already familiar with it, with both the documentary called "Catfish," 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. It is a scam I'm probably revealing my television watching habits, but it was covered by Dr. Phil extensively recently that follows the exact arc of this, and it's perpetrated with shocking frequency.
"Catfish" directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost joined HuffPost Live host Alicia Menendez via webcam Thursday to discuss whether the Manti Te'o hoax was indeed a "catfish." Both Schulman and Joost were not surprised by the idea that Te'o could have been fooled by an online girlfriend.
"It's totally plausible to us having seen lots of these stories," Joost told HuffPost Live, "that this is something that he could get roped into and believe in."
"People have a remarkable ability to deceive themselves when they really want to believe something's true," he continued.
Schulman told Alicia that his gut tells him Te'o isn't in on the hoax, saying the linebacker is probably "a naive open-hearted guy who really fell for this girl."