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Yale QB Chooses THE GAME over Rhodes Scholorship

November 20, 2011
Pembroke Hill High School Football

A friend of mine, Hugh Wyatt, is a Yale Alum and a great high school football coach. Hugh runs, for lack of a better term, a football blog. His comments published on November 18 reminded me of conflicts, albeit not this extreme, I often see in our students. While life rarely gives us easy choices the ones we make will define us. Enjoy.


Before the 1916 Yale-Harvard Game, Yale coach T.A.D. Jones told his players, “Gentlemen, you are now going to play football against Harvard. Never again in your whole life will you do anything so important."

Must have worked.  Yale won. 

Yale quarterback Patrick Witt would appear to be somewhat in agreement with Coach Jones, because this Saturday, he has chosen to play against Harvard rather than attend his Rhodes Scholarship final interview in Atlanta.

Last Sunday, Witt put out a statement through Yale in which he said, "I will be playing in the Yale-Harvard game this Saturday. I have withdrawn my application for the Rhodes Scholarship.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."

When the New Haven Register asked him to comment further, Witt replied with a text message saying, "I’m not going to be doing interviews this week."


Patrick Witt is a good football player. Recruited out of Wylie, Texas by Nebraska, he spent a year in Lincoln before transferring to Yale for what he said at the time were academic reasons.

At Yale, he has a 3.91 GPA with a history major, and he has become the school's all-time leader in passing yardage.  But he has never beaten Harvard.  Yale's seniors have never beaten Harvard.  In fact, Harvard, which comes into the game unbeaten in the Ivy League and heavily favored, hasn't lost to Yale since 2006.

The Rhodes Scholarship people obviously don't follow football, and apparently make no exceptions when they schedule their interviews.  Since at one athletic pursuits were considered an asset to a candidate, it does seem strange that they would not do so in a case such as this one.

Despite the enormous prestige of a Rhodes Scholarship, Witt seems at ease with his decision. "There are people who will second-guess your decision and think you are wrong," he said,  "And that is fine. I will make the right decision for me, my team and the university."

Rhodes Trust American Secretary Elliott Gerson sounded surprised to learn of Witt's decision. “It is rare for someone to decline an interview,” he told the New York Times. “I cannot remember anyone else who has ever declined an interview for an athletic event.”

“He told me a couple of days ago that he wasn’t going to continue to pursue the Rhodes Scholarship and was definitely going to play in The Game on Saturday,” wide receiver Chris Smith told the Yale Daily News. “I think he felt like that he had a responsibility as one of the best players on our team to be at The Game.”

Added captain Jordan Haynes, “I wasn’t surprised.  I know how hard a decision it was for him, and I think it shows a lot about how good a teammate he is and how good a leader he is. It means a lot to [the seniors] to have this one last battle together on the field, so we are excited that Patrick will be a part of that.”

“I had a feeling all along that he wasn’t going to miss The Game,” said center John Oppenheimer. “This decision just proves how much this football team means to him.  Whenever Patrick is at quarterback, the offense is really confident that we are going to move the ball down the field. Knowing that we are going to have him there — it means a lot to us."

I can't think of many things that could possibly justify walking away from one's teammates, and at a time when selfishness is routine, and disloyalty to one's teammates is accepted among big-time athletes,  I find Patrick Witt's decision admirable.  I am very proud.

And in this way,  the Rhodes Scholarship committee misses out on the Patrick Witts, and gives scholarships instead to the Wesley Clarks and Bill Clintons.  Cecil Rhodes, whose millions made possible the scholarships given in his name, must be rolling over in his grave. 

Go Blue.

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