Report: Tipped Off By Manti Te'o's Agent, ESPN Balked At Publishing Hoax Story Because It Hadn't Landed A TV Interview

ESPN knew something was up about Manti Te'o for six days before our story got published. But just how close did they get to breaking it? The New York Times's Richard Sandomir and Those Guys Have All the Fun co-author Jim Miller posed that question to Vince Doria.

"We were very close," said Vince Doria, ESPN's chief for news. "We wanted to be very careful."

What were they being so careful about? It appears they were waiting for an interview with Te'o himself:

Three ESPN executives interviewed in recent days said they should have published on Jan. 16. The executives, who would not be identified because they did not want to second-guess their organization by name, said that the network's focus on waiting until getting an interview with Te'o was a mistake.

"If I had my druthers, we would have run with it," one executive said. "We've had a bunch of discussions internally since then, and I don't think it will happen this way again. I wonder sometimes if perfection is the enemy of the practical."

Yes, because that's frequently ESPN's problem. More from Sandomir and Miller:

ESPN, as a journalistic matter, said it needed to talk to Te'o. But ESPN, as a competitive broadcaster, also dearly wanted that to happen on camera.

ESPN wanted a TV show, in other words.

The Times also reports that the original tip came from Tom Condon, Te'o's agent, suggesting the story was something of a joint venture. (For the record: We reached out to Te'o, his father, and Notre Dame—to no avail—before publishing our story last week.) According to a source, a handful of reporters were working on the story, among them Shelley Smith and Steve Delsohn, both of whom work out of Los Angeles.

As ESPN Debated, Te'o Story Slipped Away [NYT]