At Yale, the Collapse of a Rhodes Scholar Candidacy

Pat McMahon Contributor
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NEW HAVEN — On Nov. 13, Patrick J. Witt, Yale University’s star quarterback, announced that he had withdrawn his Rhodes scholarship application and would instead play against Harvard six days later, at the very time of the required Rhodes interview. His apparent choice of team fealty over individual honor capped weeks of admiring national attention on this accomplished student and his quandary.

But Witt was no longer a contender for the Rhodes, a rare honor reserved for those who excel in academics, activities and character. Several days earlier, according to people involved on both sides of the process, the Rhodes Trust had learned through unofficial channels that a fellow student had accused Witt of sexual assault. The Rhodes Trust informed Yale and Witt that his candidacy was suspended unless the university decided to re-endorse it.

Witt’s accuser has not gone to the police, nor filed what Yale considers a formal complaint. The New York Times has not spoken with her and does not know her name.

Witt, who is 22, is no longer enrolled at Yale. He completed his class work last semester, is working on his senior essay and has been training in California in preparation for a possible N.F.L. career, according to the Yale athletics Web site. Witt did not respond to messages left over several days on his cellphone, his Yale e-mail and his Facebook page.

The revelations about Witt’s Rhodes candidacy being compromised are just the latest to muddy the inspiring picture of a scholar-athlete torn between brain and brawn. Days after Witt’s withdrawal, The Times reported that Yale’s coach, Tom Williams, had invented parts of his résumé, including a supposed Rhodes candidacy that he had dropped two decades earlier in favor of a chance at a professional football career — an experience that he said gave him a unique ability to advise Witt on his tough choice. Williams resigned in December.

Full story: At Yale, the Collapse of a Rhodes Scholar Candidacy

Pat McMahon