November 13th, 2011 | Sports

Witt ’12 chooses Game over Rhodes interview

Patrick Witt looks downfield from the pocket.
Patrick Witt looks downfield from the pocket. Photo by Charlie Croom.

Bad news for the Harvard defense: Patrick Witt ’12 is not missing The Game this weekend.

The senior quarterback has officially withdrawn his application for the Rhodes Scholarship and given up his spot as a Finalist in order to play on Saturday. His interview was set to take place on Nov. 19, the same day as The Game, at Emory University in Atlanta. Witt applied from his home state of Georgia.

“I will be playing in the Yale-Harvard game this Saturday,” Witt said in an official press release, “I have withdrawn my application for the Rhodes Scholarship. My focus this week is solely on preparing for the Game alongside my teammates and coaches.”

After transferring to Yale from the University of Nebraska his sophomore year, Witt has become one of the most prolific passers in Blue and White history. He holds Yale’s all-time record in passing attempts and completions, and broke the career passing yards record on Saturday against Princeton. Witt picked apart the Tigers’ secondary, finishing with 26 completions on 33 attempts for 379 yards and three touchdowns.

Casey Gerald ’09 faced a similar dilemma in 2008, forced to choose between The Game and his Rhodes interview. However, Gerald’s Rhodes District split its interviews between Friday evening and Saturday morning. This allowed Gerald to interview on Friday and fly back in time for The Game. Rhodes District Six, which includes Georgia, did not plan for any interviews on Friday.

Saturday’s game will be the 128th meeting between Yale and Harvard.

  • alphabetical

    with all due respect to the football team…is he crazy?!?!?!?

  • WilloughbyChase

    Bravo! That’s a decision he will never regret.

  • Boogs

    Well, my understanding is that each Rhodes district selects two recipients of the scholarship from a pool of like 65 applicants. So, his odds of getting it — all things else being equal — are about 1-in-30. With the strength of Harvard this year, I’d say that Yale has a 1-in-4 chance of winning this Saturday.

    • anon

      And that 1 in 4 chance of winning multiplied by how much it matters is…

      • Yalie

        Who are you to decide what matters to someone else?

  • Boogs

    The Game has been around longer than the Rhodes Scholarship. That said, whether Witt is a Rhodes Scholar or not isn’t going to make a huge impact on his future. Nice icing on the cake, but not a deal-breaker. He’s fulfilling a commitment to lead his team and to keep a tradition. I understand this decision.

  • Inigo_Montoya

    The Rhodes committee caught Witt in a catch-22. If he’d left his team high and dry to attend the interview, his odds of winning the Rhodes (which emphasizes “leadership” and “character”) would have been very, very slim (if you think the Rhodes committee would’ve been hypocritical to hold this against him given that they had forced him into the bind in the first place, you’re right. Doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have done it).

    That said, he’ll be fine. For starters, there’s a chance this publicity move might convince the Rhodes committee to be more accommodating. Even if not, Witt will still be remembered by other scholarship committees, grad and law schools, etc., as “the guy who turned down a Rhodes interview so as not to let down his team.” Resume-wise, that’s nearly as good as the Rhodes itself, and that’s leaving aside the fact that the man is graduating with above a 3.9 from Yale having QBed its football team.

    Sure, studying for free at Oxford would’ve been cool, but there are plenty of other excellent UK scholarships (The Henry; the Mellon) for which he will be a very strong (now even stronger!) candidate. Plus, I’ll bet the Rhodes would take a very serious look at his application if he decided to apply again next year.

  • Inigo_Montoya

    tl;dr: Witt made the only decision he could have. He’s a very accomplished young man and will be fine without the Rhodes.

  • observer

    Bad choice. Harvard will, most likely, win easily, whether or not Witt in the lineup. No championship is at stake, since Harvard has already clinched. Knowing he’d given up this football game for the Rhodes opportunity, the pressure would be on the interviewers to give him a slot.

    • wlys

      who cares about a championship? i wouldn’t care if yale lost every game but The Game.

      • frank1330


  • jorge_julio


  • jorge_julio


  • silliwin01

    Do people really find a 3.9 in History (or Poli Sci) impressive?

  • claypoint2

    On the contrary: excellent choice. When he looks back on this decision as an (even more mature) adult, I bet that he will be proud to have chosen his relationships with his teammates, his coaches, and his university over a relatively small chance at the glamour and prestige of the Rhodes. It’s an especially remarkable decision, given how young he is. This is obviously a very accomplished young man who has a bright future ahead of him, with or without this scholarship. In addition, he is loyal… which speaks volumes about his character. People won’t forget this; his decision will likely receive press attention, which can only help him. His family has every reason to be very proud of him.

  • River_Tam

    What a man.

  • uncommons

    Thank you, Patrick. This is an unbelievable showing of character.

  • Inigo_Montoya

    > Do people really find a 3.9 in History
    > (or Poli Sci) impressive?

    @silliwin: Should they find it impressive? Perhaps not. That’s a question for a much longer grade inflation debate. I will point out that you’re probably overestimating the incidence of 3.9 GPAs at Yale even in History/PoliSci. A 3.9 puts you roughly in the top 10% of your class (approximating from the Summa (top 5) and Magna (next 10) cutoffs). A quick glance at the [Phi Beta Kappa membership rolls][1] reveals an insufficient number of PoliSci and History majors to push one’s percentagewise rank with a 3.9 within either major *that far* below one’s overall percentagewise Yale College rank. Whether that makes it “impressive” is another question, but we need not treat that question here because it is a third question (your actual question) that is most relevant to the debate over whether Witt made a smart choice:

    *Do people* find a 3.9 from Yale in History impressive? Most certainly.


  • Boogs

    @silliwin: You sound pretty insecure.

  • Yale12

    Yeah, making fun of a guy’s excellent GPA after he’s chosen playing for us in the Game over a chance at what is arguably the most prestigious scholarship you can get? Pretty pathetic, silliwin.

  • frank1330

    God. Country. Yale. In that order. Don’t see Rhodes on the list.

    • 2012swm


  • alum00

    If he wants, he can apply to the Rhodes Scholarship next year.

    Many Yale grads have won the fall after they graduated.

  • silliwin01

    I meant impressive to Yale students who are aware of how easy the history major is, not people in the outside world who know only that Yale is a prestigious academic institution. I should have been more clear. Note that I’m not trying to disparage his GPA, but was simply trying to see if other Yale students had a similar perspective on the grades attained from objectively easy Yale majors such as history, political science, or American studies. I’m glad he made the decision to play for us, because having our backup QB start his first game against 8-1 Harvard would extinguish our already slim hopes of prevailing in The Game; with that said, given that Ivy League football is meaningless, we could hardly have faulted him for choosing the Rhodes interview.

    • Yale12

      Justify all you want. Questioning (and making fun of) the guy’s GPA on this post was simply pathetic.

    • Inigo_Montoya

      “Objectively easy”? You keep on a-using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. In the class of 2010 (the last for which I had full data), about 11% of History majors had 3.9s compared to about 10% of the class as a whole. About 7.5% of PoliSci majors did. About 18% of biology majors did. Presumably, you wouldn’t call biology an “objectively easy major,” but a randomly chosen 2010 biology grad is much likelier to have had a 3.9 than a randomly chosen 2010 history grad. What you would do in the face of this data, I’m sure, is argue that history and polisci attract a lower caliber of student than biology, and that therefore a 3.9 within them is still less impressive. That’s going to be lot harder to show “objectively,” though (how do you quantify a student’s major-independent ability?). Personally, I do (*subjectively*) think biology would be a harder major for most (though not all!) Yalies than history, but what we’re really coming up against is the fact that grad inflation moves the mean more than the extreme. It pushes B-range grades to A-s more than it makes getting almost all straight As likely (and I predict you’d see that if you looked at average GPA by major as opposed to percentage of 3.9+ GPAs). Grade inflation is more about making it easier to do somewhat well than it is about making it easier to excel.

      • Inigo_Montoya

        Corollary: I think you might actually expect see slightly more super-high (right side of the curve) GPAs in the sciences because while it’s less likely that you’ll be saved from a bad grade by an easy professor, it’s also less likely that you’ll get screwed out of a good grade by an unfair professor. Getting an indisputable 100% is possible on a math midterm or final, and people do it all the time.

      • HighStreet2010


        You keep on a-using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.


    • silliwin01

      So there is no appreciable difference in intelligence, work ethic, extracurricular commitment or other factors between biology majors and history majors? And yes, I wasn’t using objectively in its proper literal sense, but rather to figuratively state that Yale students (at least the ones I’ve talked to) know that history, political science and so forth are easier majors than physics or biomedical engineering.

      • Inigo_Montoya

        You give me a good means of quantifying it, I will. I’m just pushing you to stop pointing to “everybody knows” if you’re going to call someone’s 3.9 the unimpressive because it comes from an “easy major.” The sciences are hard for a lot of people precisely because “everybody knows” doesn’t get you very far.

        Also, I don’t know what history majors you knew, but (anecdotally) the ones I knew were actually among the smartest, hardest working, and most extracurricularly involved humanities majors I met at Yale (I wasn’t a history major, in case the statistical geekery didn’t give it away).

  • silliwin01

    You are quite vociferously defending the guy; is there any particular reason? You seem intent on calling my comment “pathetic” without offering any nuanced reasoning or indicating you understood my clarification – does a successful Yale football player really need your anonymous and blind whiteknighting?

    • Yale12

      I don’t think there’s any nuanced reasoning needed. The guy gave up an opportunity at a Rhodes to play in a football game for our school. It was a classy act, and using this particular blog post to make fun of his GPA and major wasn’t. It just smacks of insecurity.

      I love when anonymous forum users make fun of other anonymous forum users for being anonymous. Good stuff.

  • EliFBfan

    Once again the points here have wandered far afield which is the habit of you contentious, covetousness twits. He was certified for the “Rhodes,” that’s as objective as the conversation needs to be. Patrick Witt should be applauded for simply being in the position that requires a decision of such gravity. He has made his decision and we should all wish him continued good fortune (especially Saturday).

    • Inigo_Montoya

      My rule is that it’s typically easier to convince someone to respect a third person (or indeed convince him of anything) if you engage with him on his own terms rather than insulting him. Sometimes this requires debates about GPAs. That said, I don’t seem to be having much success convincing silliwin to respect Pat Witt or history majors generally, so I suppose your point stands.

      • silliwin01

        You’re never going to succeed in convincing me that history is remotely comparable in difficulty to science or engineering majors. I’ve taken classes in history and political science in addition to the ones for my major, and the former were invariably easier.

        • Yale12

          For you. I have several roommates who would be absolutely paralyzed at the idea of a 25-page term paper but happily do problem sets. “Difficulty” is not objective.

  • blablabla

    @silliwin01: You’re either a douchebag…or out of touch with reality. Get some common sense dude

  • Sterbling

    How come no one is mentioning the fact that Witt CHOSE to apply through the Georgia region? He just as easily could have applied through the Connecticut/Massachusetts region. He knew the interviews conflicted with The Game, so why not choose the local region so that he could still make it to The Game? This seems at least partly like a problem of his own making.

  • River_Tam

    All the butt-hurt history majors in this thread make me laugh. Yes, I love Pat Witt. No, a 3.91 in a History major is not impressive to anyone at Yale. Yes, it’s still very impressive to the rest of the world. No, your major is not the hardest at Yale. No, it’s not the easiest (that’s Anthro, or maybe WGSS). Yes, STEM majors look down on you.

    > He knew the interviews conflicted with The Game, so why not choose the local region so that he could still make it to The Game?

    Because the Georgia region is a lot less competitive.

    • Sterbling

      Even ignoring the fact that the districts are designed to be equally competitive, what does the competitiveness matter if you can’t go to the interview in the first place?

      • River_Tam

        What were the dates for the Connecticut/Massachusetts interview?

        • JPC

          It’s this weekend as well. Some districts, like Texas, give out interviews on Friday evening. But I get the feelings that most districts like to do everything on Saturday.

  • Tan

    The Rhodes committee are pretty awful for making him choose like this. Unless it’s some kind of test of his character.

  • guerrero

    Hey silliwin01, in Witt’s case, he had a 4.0 gpa at Nebraska and was a few electives shy of a BS in Finance. He has an impressive transcript I’m sure. History was a degree he chose cause he enjoys it. Now take your GED and go clock in at Wendy’s.

  • The Anti-Yale

    I pay zero attention to sports’ games, scores and records. ZERO.

    But I do pay attention to sports’ anecdotes.

    This is a good story: The Yalie who gave up a chance at a Rhodes to play in a game.

    As for Engineering v. History:

    The Twin Towers collapsed. So did the Roman Empire.

    Each will have their Gibbon.

    Best wishes to Mr. Witt.


  • Dynasty

    It is interesting to note that the man responsible for refusing Witt’s request to postpone the interview, Elliot Gerson, (the “American Secretary” of the Rhodes Trust) is a Harvard graduate. Witt also was prepared to have his interview on Friday, but this region is not offering Friday interviews – this year. This information does not appear on any of the webpages discussing interview scheduling, and Witt had every reason to believe that he could have his interview on Friday as has been done for other applicants in the past. Very poor sportsmanship, Mr. Gerson. You should resign your position.

  • observer

    to “Dynasty”

    You fail to note that Gerson is also a graduate of Oxford and YALE Law School.