Former quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 may not have had the option of pursuing a Rhodes scholarship when he announced on Nov. 13 that he would play in the 2011 Yale-Harvard football game, the New York Times reported Thursday.
Citing interviews with six anonymous sources “with knowledge of all or part of the story,” the article stated that a female Yale student approached the University’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education Center in September before filing an informal complaint — alleging that Witt had sexually assaulted her in her dorm room — with the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct. The Times reported that the Rhodes Trust had learned of the accusation several days before Witt announced he would play in The Game. According to the article, the Rhodes Trust notified Yale that Witt would be ineligible for the scholarship unless University administrators re-endorsed his candidacy.
Witt could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
Witt walked with the class of 2011 at Commencement in May and returned this fall to complete his studies as a second-semester senior. Though Witt told the News Jan. 8 that he had “already graduated,” University spokesman Tom Conroy said Thursday night that Witt has not graduated.
On Oct. 31, Witt was notified that he had been selected as a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship and would need to attend a mandatory interview in his home state of Georgia on Nov. 19, the same day as the Yale-Harvard game.
The University and Witt announced that he would play in the Yale-Harvard game in a Nov. 13 press release from Yale Athletics. Though the release did not explicitly link Witt’s choice to play in the game with his decision to withdraw his Rhodes Scholarship application, the News and other media outlets reported that Witt gave up his interview to stay in New Haven for the Game.
“Senior quarterback Patrick Witt, who has completed more passes for more yards than anyone ever at Yale, has withdrawn his application for the Rhodes Scholarship and will be in New Haven all day on Nov. 19 to make his third start against Harvard,” the release stated.
That same day, the Sunday before The Game, Witt told the News that he was declining all interview requests that week.
University administrators reached Thursday night — including University President Richard Levin, Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Provost Peter Salovey — declined to comment on the allegations against Witt.
Conroy said student disciplinary matters are confidential and that it would be illegal for the University to discuss an allegation against a student.
“My understanding is that all the facts in [the Times] story are based on anonymous sources,” Conroy said. “All the alleged facts are from anonymous sources.”
Students at Yale can file two kinds of complaints with the UWC — formal and informal — and the University maintains confidentiality in both cases. Miller said in a Thursday email that she is only notified of formal complaints.
An informal complaint, which the Times reported was filed against Witt, leads to either limited or no investigation and can be resolved within a few days. The status of the alleged complaint against Witt is unknown.
The University also maintains confidentiality for scholarship and fellowship applications such as the Rhodes, Conroy said. He added that “no one at Yale discussed with the New York Times any aspects of the Rhodes scholarship other than process.”
Though the Times reported that the dean of Yale College is required to submit a report for all Rhodes nominations, Miller said residential college deans are responsible for signing Rhodes applications, not the Yale College dean.
In order for Witt to complete his Rhodes application, he would have needed the signature of then-Jonathan Edwards College Dean Kyle Farley, who announced Nov. 3 that he would leave at the end of the semester. Farley, who took an administrative position in Australia, could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
It remains unclear whether University administrators re-endorsed his candidacy following the player’s suspension, as the Times reported.
American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust Elliot Gerson declined to comment for this story in a Thursday night email, citing the “confidential matters” involved.
Director of Athletics Tom Beckett could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
Witt transferred to Yale from the University of Nebraska in 2009.
Maria Guardado, Jimin He, Tapley Stephenson and Antonia Woodford contributed reporting.