Senior College Football Columnist

Once super-agent remakes Manti, we'll forget all about this saga


You don't know Tom Condon. I know Tom Condon. At least, I know of him.

Tom Condon may be the most powerful man in the NFL this side of Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith. That's not just me talking, that's the buzz, the football world.

Condon, a former Kansas City Chiefs guard, is the power brokers' power broker. He's also Manti Teo's agent. This matters because we have now entered into the rehab phase of Teo's NFL career before the man has made a tackle.

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Condon and his company -- Creative Artists Agency -- are in the business of this sort of rehab. CAA is the top image maker in the world. In. The World. The firm is most famously known for repping Hollywood talent from Will Ferrell to Tom Cruise to Tom Hanks to Robert Downey Jr.

Remember Downey in Less Than Zero? Life imitated actor. So when a coked-up has-been is able to pick himself up and become Iron Man, getting a socially awkward linebacker back up on his marketing feet is easy.

Katie Couric jumps on board the Te'o train Thursday with an interview in which the nation's best defensive player plays a lot of defense. He says he "briefly lied" after getting that call from his fake girlfriend.

So, to be clear, Manti has finally fessed up to referencing his "relationship" at least twice after getting that Dec. 6 call. Controversy? Sure. Scandal? Maybe. Molding of public opinion? Now we've got something.

It's now clear we've been played like a Fender Stratocaster in Manti's case. It started with a bizarre Catfish incident. It peters out Thursday on Katie. No matter what you think of where this is headed, Notre Dame's (seemingly) naïve linebacker has entered into a different world. It is one that will spit him out a refined, redone man about town.

Condon and CAA -- the king makers and image shapers -- have seen to it.

Katie got the interview. Manti gets to launch his new apparel line in a few months, his rep having gone through a thorough media car wash. Never mind there is no such thing as "briefly" lying. It either is, or isn't a lie. (In the latest weird twist, Roniaiah Tuisasosopo's lawyer contends his client impersonated Lennay Kekua during phone conversations with Teo. To clear thinks up, Tuisasosopo imitated a virtual girlfriend who died but never really existed.)

Meanwhile, Te'o intentionally misled Notre Dame, the public and the media. There's no particular crime there but let's cut the B.S. Why should we believe anything The Great Manti has to say at this point? This kid was apparently misled for months -- maybe years -- by a get-a-life group of pranksters. When faced with the truth, he chose to protect his reputation and, it seems, his ego.

So much so, that he waited three weeks to tell his own coaches the truth. To garner sympathy, apparently Teo played the WWKD card -- What Would Katie Do?

"Katie, put yourself in my situation ...," he says on a portion of the interview that aired on Wednesday. "What would you do?"

I know a lot of us would immediately disclose the truth and face the consequences. Te'o didn't briefly lie; he perpetuated a hoax for at least three weeks. A national symbol of virtue didn't have much for that stretch. You can argue Te'o was confused and embarrassed. I can also argue the cover up is always worse than the crime.

While I won't go as far to say Notre Dame was complicit, it doesn't seem like the truth was the No. 1 target in its "investigation." The South Bend Tribune reported earlier this week that the school performed what seems like only a cursory look into the matter. Private investigator? How about alerting the cops, first? What Ronaiah Tuiasosopo did to Te'o is close to harassment. Private investigator? The P.I. didn't even interview Te'o or his family.

An ND spokesman told the paper it did not reveal the hoax before the national championships because it didn't want to distract the teams -- plural. Let's be honest. Alabama didn't give a flip about Lennay Kekua. Let's stop that narrative in its tracks. This was about protecting Te'o and Notre Dame.

But all that is passed now. The CAA Machine has taken hold. The Great Manti didn't tell the truth. Guilty, innocent, gullible? Doesn't matter. In a few months you're going to be wearing Te'o togs.

Tom Condon has assured it. He is CAA and we believe. The same way we believe Robert Downey is Iron Man or Will Ferrell is Anchorman or Tom Cruise is the man. Manti Te'o is traveling down that road to redemption.

It began with his statement following the story. It continued with Jeremy Schaap's no-camera interview with Te'o last week. Upon further review, that was nothing more than a carefully-crafted, CAA-orchestrated tease -- a tease for Thursday's Couric interview.

See how we got here? Te'o has been remade already. Katie isn't exactly known as the most probing interviewer. There's a reason she went from Today Show to evening news to talk show. Katie Cutie interviewing confused All-American makes for good TV especially when the ratings suck. Just ask Oprah about Lance Armstrong.

Te'o is going to emerge a sympathetic figure. We're going to forget, if not forgive. CAA has mandated it. If you don't think so, don't buy the apparel. It's coming. Three months, tops. I guarantee it. You'll forget all about the controversy, scandal or whatever it is. Soon, you'll want Manti Te'o's gear more than you'll care about Manti Te'o's story.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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