Witt ’12 clarifies timeline

Patrick Witt ’12 told the News Tuesday night that he decided to play in the Nov. 19 Yale-Harvard Game before he was notified that the Rhodes Trust had asked Yale to re-endorse his candidacy.

In a phone interview, the former quarterback clarified his account after a story published in the New York Times last Thursday sparked days of speculation as to why Witt ended his Rhodes Scholarship candidacy. The Times reported that Witt’s Rhodes candidacy would require re-endorsement from Yale, as it had been “suspended” because of an informal sexual assault complaint filed against him in September by a female student. Without the University’s backing, Witt would have had no choice between playing in The Game and attending his Rhodes interview, scheduled that same day in Georgia, the Times reported. But Witt told the News that he had chosen to play against Harvard before he was informed that his candidacy required an additional endorsement letter.

Witt said he first learned his candidacy had been called into question when he received a phone call from Yale Director for National Fellowships Katherine Dailinger on either the evening of Nov. 9 or morning of Nov. 10. In the call, Witt said Dailinger informed him that he would need re-endorsement from Yale to remain eligible for the scholarship.

By that time, however, Witt said he had already chosen to play in The Game rather than pursue the Rhodes. He told Dailinger that, as a result, he would not need University re-endorsement.

“I told her at that time I had already made my decision due to a conversation that I had with the regional secretary by email, who told me on the eighth that I was going to have to choose between the two decisions,” Witt said. “Essentially it was an ultimatum. After getting that confirmation from the regional secretary, I told my parents, told my coaches, told people in the Athletic[s] Department that I was going to play in The Game. And so when Kate Dailinger called me on the night of the ninth or the morning of the 10th to let me know about the second letter, it was essentially a moot point.”

Dailinger could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Witt said once he was named a finalist, “his stance all along” was to attend The Game over the interview if the two conflicted.

“From day one when I was selected as a finalist, the first thing I did was call my folks to tell them the good news,” he said. “And the second thing I did was to see [my coaches] and say, ‘Look, if they make me choose between the two, I’m playing in The Game and I want you to know that.’”

Former head football coach Tom Williams could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The Rhodes Trust informed Witt that he could not reschedule his interview in a series of Nov. 8 emails from Daniel Promislow, regional secretary for the district representing Witt’s home state of Georgia, which Witt’s spokesman, Mark Magazu, provided the News.

In a final attempt to reconcile the two commitments, Witt had written to Promislow earlier that afternoon requesting permission to attend a morning interview on Nov. 19 and risk missing a “potential callback.” But Promislow responded the night of Nov. 8 saying all candidates must be present for potential reinterviews, and that Witt would “need to decide between one of [his] two opportunities.”

Faced with that dilemma, Witt said he told officials at the Yale Athletics Department on Nov. 9 that he would play in The Game.

At 8:58 a.m. the next morning, Dailinger told Witt she supported his decision and advised him to thank Promislow for the opportunity to interview for the Rhodes, according to an email that Magazu provided the News. Witt said the email came after he had spoken with Dailinger about his decision over the phone.

“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 in the email. “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.”

Though Witt said he had already notified Yale Athletics and the football team’s coaches of his choice, he decided to wait until Yale competed against Princeton on Nov. 12 before publicly announcing his choice the next day.

“I will be playing in the Yale-Harvard game this Saturday,” he said in a Nov. 13 press release from the Yale Athletics Department. “I have withdrawn my application for the Rhodes scholarship.”

The Times article, which reported that Witt’s candidacy had been “suspended” before his official announcement, noted that his statement did not directly link his decision to end his Rhodes candidacy with his choice to play in The Game. Rather, the statement created a “misimpression” about Witt’s reasoning that neither Yale nor the quarterback attempted to correct, the Times alleged.

But Witt flatly denied claims that he knowingly misled the public.

“I didn’t keep it a secret from any of my friends and the New York Times’ insinuation that I was circulating a media circus is ludicrous,” he said. “I’m not talented enough to do that. I’m not a media expert.”

Witt is currently in California training for the National Football League Combine, a professional recruiting event that will be held in Indianapolis, Ind., at the end of February this year.

Comments

  • The Anti-Yale

    While this is well written, it is difficult to keep it straight, at least for my fragile brain.

    IF it is really THAT important to readers whether a college football player was a noble sacrificial hero or a truth-shader, I suggest that YDN make an actual timeline (DRAW the darn thing), for those of us with limited cerebral musculature.

    Thanks.

    PK

    PS
    (Why is throwing and catching a pigskin so ALMIGHTY important in the greatest country in the world, anyway ! Seems infantile to me. Arrested development? )

    • theantiantiyale

      It’s called tradition, PK. And he is a human being, respect him like one.

    • JackJ

      It’s clear you’ve never played the game. Question, have you engaged in any athletics? This is too confined a venue to attempt to explain the intricacies of sport in general and football in particular but suffice it to say that if you’ve ever played the game in more than just a casual way you would understand. Many who have never played obtain vicarious release in the actions of those who do in no small part because they understand just how difficult it is to do it correctly. Throughout the history of mankind we have invented competitions that pit one against another. In some cases those contests involve solely brute strength–in others intellectual capability alone wins you the prize–and then there’s football where strength, speed, quickness (not the same,) team work, intellectual prowess in your play caller and the ability to deliver an 11″ long 15 oz oblong piece of rubber and leather to a predetermined spot some five to fifty yards away, determine success or failure. It is, in the opinion of many, the ultimate team endeavor.

      • ernie

        Good grief. I’m a big football fan, but this comment is insufferable.

        • JackJ

          Really, why? The man believes the sport “infantile” perhaps we need to work from ground up. The comment wasn’t meant for you since you’re a big fan and understand the intricacies of the sport. Perhaps his perception of the game is grounded in a lack of understanding.

      • The Anti-Yale

        I RESPECT Mr. Witt’s choice of recreation, I simply decline to GLORIFY and APOTHEOSIZE it.
        As for the “sport” itself:

        Am totally confused after the sides switch positions in the middle of the game. 100,000 people watching fist-sized creatures in a basin running after a fingernail sized object? What’s the attraction?

        Sublimating aggression on a keyboard is more fun than running around in public wearing gladiator uniforms while people scream their heads off. It’s also less dangerous: Traumatic brain injury.

        Sorry.

        PK

  • An_Observer

    There are two different and completely unrelated issues involved in the Patrick Witt imbroglio. The first is what happened between him and his alleged victim as well as how they have been treated individually and collectively by everybody else: the New York Times, the YDN, other media, Yale University and the Rhodes trust. Because this first issue involves allegations of sexual assault and the reputations of a young man and woman, it touches many hot buttons. Commentators have written and spoken at length with their many emotional responses.

    But the other broad issue does not involve much emotion at all. This second issue is whether Patrick Witt and, more importantly, Yale University lied to the media when they issued their press release on November 13. In today’s YDN article, Patrick is trying to support his claim that he made his underlying personal decision to play in the Harvard game before being told by the Rhodes committee that they would need a second endorsement from Yale. This may or may not be true. Even in his version of events, he was leaning toward playing and had told his friends and his coaches of his preference, but had not yet informed the Rhodes trust that he was withdrawing. Until he told the Rhodes committee, it was still a pending, reversible decision.

    But by the time that Patrick and Yale issued the press release on November 13, both of them knew that his candidacy run into a unique hurdle not faced by the other finalists, the request for a second endorsement. Yale has not indicated whether it would have provided one. Even with a second endorsement, Patrick’s candidacy might have already suffered irreparable damage. So we don’t know whether Yale would have supported him or whether he even had a viable application at the time.

    What we do know is that Patrick and Yale wrote a press release which, given all the prior speculation over whether he would play, could only be interpreted by readers to mean that Patrick was nobly choosing team loyalty over individual honors.

    Patrick is trying to make the case that, indeed, he had made the personal decision in his own mind prior to being contacted by the Rhodes trust. While that may help ease his conscience that he was not telling a lie in the press release, by November 13, events had progressed to the point where the language in the press release may have been “the truth,” it absolutely was not “the whole truth.” In a court of law, that’s definitely a lie. Given all the accolades which Patrick and Yale had enjoyed in the weeks leading up his decision, in the world of public opinion, that’s either, at worst, a lie or, at best, a crime of omission calculated, intended and expected to mislead.

    • bulldogs344

      Absolutely. This administration myopically thinks that it is protecting Yale’s image but it actually makes everything much worse.

  • River_Tam

    Bravo to the YDN for actually doing the legwork on this story.

  • River_Tam

    After reading the Opinion section today, I’m unfortunately forced to retract my plaudit.

    The way that the YDN has published multiple Anonymous allegations of rape, BOTH of which take pot-shots at Pat Witt in stories COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY UNCONNECTED TO HIM is absolutely 100% shameful and a disgrace to this paper and the institution of Yale University.

    People who’ve read my comments know there’s no one out there who has more of a problem with the sexual environment at Yale. People who’ve read my comments know that I despise rape and I think a confluence of factors have led to an environment where regret rape, “rape rape” (to use Whoopi Goldberg’s absurd turn-of phrase), and date rape occur too often at Yale (and elsewhere at colleges across the country).

    But the absolute GALL of the Yale Daily News to publish two anonymous accounts of rape the same week as Pat Witt’s scandal breaks is just unbelievable. If there were any doubt that the timing was planned, look no further than the contents of the pieces themselves. Both mention Pat Witt in the first paragraph (one even mocks his statement to the press), even though NEITHER STUDENT had any interaction with him. NEITHER student knows the fact of the case. The YDN itself doesn’t know the facts of his case. And yet, both anonymous voices use their own alleged rape to somehow PRIVILEGE themselves into a position where they believe they can effectively pass of insinuation and innuendo as fact when it comes to Pat Witt. Witt now has to not only defend himself from his accuser (who keeps *her* anonymity), but now has to defend himself against anonymous accusations leveled at *other men*. That’s bad enough.

    But then, the YDN *let’s them do this*? It *encourages this sort of behavior*? That’s not journalistic. It’s not ethical. It’s downright shameful. It does everyone – from rape victims, to serious journalists at the YDN, to the Yale administration, to the students of Yale a massive disservice. But most of all, it’s a shameful and underhanded attack launched at Pat Witt.

    • JackJ

      Cogent observation.

    • River_Tam

      I’m going to say one more thing on this, because I think it hasn’t been said. I might regret writing this in a few minutes, but I’m really really pissed over what the YDN has done so I feel like it’s my job to say something.

      Growing up, I twice had sex that one could quite easily classify as “rape”. I don’t say I was raped, because I think that carries a certain connotation that isn’t appropriate in this situation. I think the YWC would say I was raped. I withhold judgment. I live with it.

      I will say I was foolish, and that I did not consent to sex and did not want to have sex but I did not object. But I believe if I had objected, the boys (they were boys, not men) would have stopped. At least that’s what I cling to. I doubt they even realize they raped me. But that was a different life, and it’s weird for me to think about it now – it’s so different from the Yale bubble and now the professional world where there are rules.

      I don’t think this gives me special insight into anyone else’s life. I don’t think I’m somehow privileged by my victimhood, real or imagined. I don’t think I am worthy to judge whether or not Pat Witt sexually assaulted a woman at Yale. Hell, I still can’t even figure out whether or not I was raped, and I lived it. I’m only telling this story because it’s important to understand that I do not lack sympathy for those who have undergone the trauma of sexual assault and rape.

      But what I do know is this: I know Pat Witt. Not well, but I know him. We’ve spoken a several times, we’ve flirted at least once (or at least I thought so). I don’t know him well enough to judge his soul. But I do know that he’s a human being, and he’s the only human being in this whole mess who’s been forced to put his name and reputation behind everything he’s said. He’s had to rebut the facts of an ethereal case that hasn’t even been presented. He’s had to stand up and say “I did not do whatever this woman says I did, although I can’t tell you what she says I did”. Two of his classmates – other Yalies – have written testimonials about how THEY were raped – and mentioned him by name in their opening sentences for no other reason than the fact that he was accused of sexual misconduct. Both explicitly draw parallels between what they went through and what they imagine Pat Witt’s accuser went through, despite them not knowing a single fact of Pat Witt’s case.

      I am sick to my stomach writing this. But I cannot let a fellow Yalie, a fellow JE Spider, and a fellow human being go through this unaccountable savagery by a slew of anonymous people who are trading in character smears and hit pieces.

      Y’all are unbelievable.

      • The Anti-Yale

        I now recall what was removed by YDN. It was a reference to Charon and the River Styx filled with sewage, an allusion I used to suggest what the world of anonymous posting has become thanks the social networking. An allusion which validates River Tam’s points made above. WHY IN HEAVEN’S NAME WAS THIS MILD IMAGE THREATENING TO YDN moderators amid all of the roughage hurled into other posts herein?

        PK

      • HighStreet2010

        Great post.

        Except for the JE part, really hurt your argument there :P

    • xfxjuice

      One of the first times I have agreed with you whole-heartedly.

    • NewCampus

      Well said River. Much respect.

  • Justine

    Is Yale willing to make itself transparent? The challenge is for Yale administration to conduct an investigation (preferably by an independent third party) to make transparent the exact sequence of events and communications (whether via email, text, phone call, in person meeting) from September complaint date through present to show exactly what occurred and when and by whom.
    The confidentiality of the victim can be maintained by redacting her name.
    I, for one, would like to know:
    1 – Did those who authorized and wrote the Yale press release “to play in The Game” know before its release that (a) Witt was accused of assault and (b) Rhodes wanted a re-endorsement because of that information?
    2 – If only Yale authorized personnel knew of the assault complaint, who broke the confidentiality of the process and anonymously contacted Rhodes?
    3 – Did Yale contact Rhodes in September to let them know that an anonymous assault complaint occurred against Witt who was under consideration before being named a finalist in October? If no, why did Yale chose not to contact Rhodes about their student, Witt? (when I say Yale, I imply the administrators assigned with responsibilty for such matters as Rhodes coordination, writing press releases, approving press releases, etc.)
    4 – Does Yale as well as Witt have a defamation lawsuit against the NY Times for implying the university was complicit in covering up information and having rogue Yale employees or students report anonymous information to the NY Times? NY Times article suggests their anonymous sources were Yale staff or students which may not be the case. If it was the case, then Yale needs to find out which employees chose to break the confidentiality rules and go to the NY Times anonymously.
    5 – Why is Yale Administration staying silent? I am not implying culpability and maybe they are getting their ducks in a row and receiving legal counsel. But silence implies complicity or at least guilt. Transparency says, here is what we know at this time and we are going to conduct an independent investigation to see where any actions occurred by Yale staff, adminstration or students that are not in accordance with who we are and what we stand for.
    The administrators, staff and students will change over time, they come and go, but Yale, as an institution should be honored. Transparency is the answer. Ask the tough questions of yourself. Come clean. Apologize for any errors. Make it good. It will not go away if you don’t. You can’t control the blatant disregard for professional journalism the NY Times perpetrated but you can honor Yale and do the right thing.

  • EliFBfan

    I am now River Tam’s biggest fan ! Concise, direct, cogent, eloquent, how cool are you? Justine, you need a good editor.

  • observer
  • GSAS11

    And it turns out that Witt LIED, and instead of learning about problems with his candidacy only on Nov. 9 or 10, he was aware of them already on Nov. 3, when the Rhodes Trust informed him by phone that they knew of the sexual assault allegations. This is days before both the media blitz in which he happily played along with the noble choice spin, and before the date he now gives as the date on which he supposedly made his decision, supposedly in the dark about all the complications. What a surprise!

    Oh, and the Secretary of the Trust, Elliot Gerson, also says that calling Witt’s candidacy suspended after the Trust learned of the sexual assault allegations “a very reasonable characterization of what happened.” So the YDN can drop the scare-quotes.