Back in November, Yale quarterback Patrick Witt earned the adoration of pigskin fans everywhere when he announced that he was turning down a chance to earn a Rhodes scholarship so he could play in the annual showdown against Harvard.
The problem was timing. The game was going to be played on Nov. 19, the same weekend the Rhodes interviews were scheduled to take place in Atlanta.
"The important part here is not so much the game, but the principle of it," Witt said, according to the USA Today. "If I were to go to that interview and skip the game, in a lot of ways I'm not acting like the person they selected to interview."
Witt was widely praised for making such a bold choice.
The New York Times has learned that there was something else going on at the time.
According to the Times report, Witt was actually no longer a candidate for the Rhodes scholarship, as the Rhodes Trust had learned several days before Witt's announcement that the star quarterback had been accused of sexual assault by a fellow student.
When the Rhodes Trust found out, it informed Witt and Yale that his candidacy was suspended, putting pressure on the university to re-endorse it.
Instead, Witt chose to withdraw his application. He then went on to throw three interceptions against Harvard in a 45-7 loss.
The Times claims that Witt's accuser never filed a formal complaint, and that it is unknown exactly what occurred or if the matter was ever resolved.
What the Times was able to uncover is that Witt's accuser made an informal complaint to Yale's University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct. When the committee receives an informal complaint, it is charged with resolving the matter "without a full investigation or a finding of guilt or innocence."
The Times also notes that Witt belonged to a fraternity called Delta Kappa Epsilon, "whose members and pledges had engaged in highly publicized episodes of sexual harassment."
When it comes to choosing whether or not to endorse candidates for the Rhodes scholarship, which allows the winners to study at Oxford University, Yale does not look into any off-campus records. If it had in Witt's case, it would have noticed that he had two prior run-ins with the law in 2007 and 2010.
The Rhodes Trust was not notified of Witt's sexual assault accusation by a Yale official. It was told by someone else, who chose to remain anonymous.
After the Harvard game, Witt cryptically said, "My decision wasn’t based on winning or losing this game."
The Times notes that Witt is no longer enrolled at Yale, nor has he graduated. The university would not explain his status, and Witt himself did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him.
Unless Witt or the alleged feels like talking about it, we'll probably never know exactly how the sexual assault accusation against him came about. And since the police were never informed, it's probable that the matter won't be resolved in the courts.
What we do know is that Witt did not tell the truth about the circumstances surrounding his decision to forego the Rhodes interviews in favor of "The Game." The Times points out that Witt never actually said he was withdrawing his application so he could play against Harvard, but that was the conclusion that the media came to and they ran with it.
Neither Witt nor Yale ever bothered to correct the common perception, nor did they ever go public what what was going on behind the scenes. Given the silence of both Witt and the university, not to mention the mysterious circumstances of Witt's status at the university, it is fair to say that the sexual assault incident was essentially swept under the rug.
In the meantime, both the media and people familiar with Witt's story were under the impression that Witt was a man who cared more about his teammates than he did about the Rhodes scholarship, and that he had sacrificed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so he could be with his team.
In reality, that's not the case.
Albeit in an indirect way, we have been lied to.
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