The New York Times and Patrick Witt’s ’12 spokesman have outlined conflicting narratives of how the former quarterback’s Rhodes Scholarship candidacy ended last fall.
The Times reported Thursday that Witt’s Rhodes candidacy had been “suspended” because of an informal sexual assault complaint filed against him in September by a female student. Unless Yale re-endorsed Witt’s candidacy, the complaint would have eliminated his choice between playing in the Yale-Harvard football game on Nov. 19 and attending his Rhodes interview in Georgia scheduled for that same day, according to the Times. But Mark Magazu, the agent representing Witt, rejected the Times’ account Friday when he insisted that the quarterback made his decision before learning that the Rhodes committee had asked for a re-endorsement.
As the two accounts diverge, it remains unclear when Witt became aware that the Rhodes committee had questioned his candidacy in light of the informal complaint. The Times reported that the Rhodes Trust alerted both Yale and Witt that his candidacy could not proceed unless he was re-endorsed by Yale, but the date of this communication also remains unknown.
Magazu told the News that Witt only learned of the need for re-endorsement after informing Yale Athletics that he would play in The Game. Magazu said he did not know the details of how or when Rhodes officials made their request.
“I don’t know when Rhodes alerted Yale; I don’t know how Rhodes alerted Yale; I don’t know when Yale alerted Patrick and how,” Magazu said.
Witt could not be reached for comment Sunday night.
The Rhodes Trust notified Witt that he would have to choose between attending his interview and playing in The Game in a series of emails on Nov. 8 that Magazu provided the News.
That afternoon, Witt had written Daniel Promislow, secretary for the district that includes Georgia, expressing his “intention to exhaust every possible means of fulfilling both commitments.” As the interview process can extend to a second round, Witt had requested permission to attend a morning interview in the “first slot” and acknowledged that he would not be able to attend a “potential callback in the afternoon.”
But Promislow responded that night saying Witt must make a decision, as the interviews are only fair if “everyone participates fully and equally in the entire process.”
Promislow deferred comment Sunday to Elliot Gerson, the American secretary of the Rhodes Trust. Gerson did not respond to a request for comment.
Though Witt did not publicly announce that he would play in The Game until Nov. 13 via a Yale Athletics press release, Magazu said the quarterback told members of the Athletics Department of his decision in person on Nov. 9.
At 8:58 a.m. the next morning, Yale Director for National Fellowships Katherine Dailinger told Witt she supported his decision in an email that Magazu provided the News. Dailinger advised Witt to explain that he felt the need to uphold a commitment to his team, and to thank Promislow for the opportunity to interview for the Rhodes. There is no mention of a Rhodes request for re-endorsement in either Dailinger’s or Promislow’s emails to Witt.
“This has of course all been very difficult, but if I might be able to help in any way I would be more than glad to do so,” Dailinger wrote. “I do still think that your decision to decline this interview is a good one, and the best way to preserve your options going forward.”
While Witt had informed administrators of his decision before Nov. 13, it remains unclear whether he was aware at the time that Yale would need to re-endorse his candidacy, and thus whether that could have impacted his decision to play in The Game.
Witt was first told of the informal complaint in an Oct. 31 email from Michael Della Rocca, chair of the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct. In the email, which Magazu provided the News, Della Rocca requested that Witt meet with him and Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry to discuss the complaint. Della Rocca added that the meeting did not represent a “disciplinary proceeding” but instead indicated that a “non-disciplinary resolution [was] being sought.”
Witt and Della Rocca met the next day, Magazu said, adding that he was unsure if other administrators were present. At the meeting, Magazu said Witt learned the nature of the accusation and was asked by administrators to maintain an amicable relationship with the complainant. Witt was not asked to meet with administrators again, Magazu added.
Della Rocca said in a Sunday night email that parties other than the complainant are notified of an informal complaint when required by “the resolution sought by the complainant.” UWC members meet with the respondent if necessary, and in some cases an administrator who is not part of the committee attends a meeting, Della Rocca said.
“There is an expectation of confidentiality that applies to all members of the Yale community who participate in UWC matters,” Della Rocca said.
University President Richard Levin declined to comment Sunday.
Magazu said Witt is currently in California training for the National Football League Scouting Combine — a professional recruitment event that will be held in Indianapolis, Ind., at the end of February.
Though the quarterback walked with the class of 2011 at Commencement last spring, Yale Spokesman Tom Conroy said Thursday that Witt has not yet graduated. Witt completed all of his course requirements last fall and will receive his diploma this spring after finishing his senior thesis for the history major, according to Magazu.
The Rhodes Scholarship’s official application and endorsement deadline was Oct. 5, 2011.