Yale quarterback Patrick Witt made worldwide headlines when he withdrew his Rhodes scholarship application in order to play against Harvard, but a shocking new report shows that he actually withdrew due to sexual assault allegations.
Many were shocked that Witt would give up a chance at the prestigious Rhodes scholarship to play in a football game - Yale lost 45-7 - but now his decision makes significant more sense given the sexual assault allegations.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that Witt had withdrawn his application days before the game against Yale's hated rival because a young woman informally complained to the university about a sexual assault.
The alleged assault was never reported to the police, according to the report, but the Rhodes Trust learned through unofficial channels that a fellow student had accused Witt of sexual assault.
Witt is not currently enrolled at the university and is currently working out in California in preparation for the NFL Draft, according to Yale's athletics Web site. He has not publicly responded to reports that he was involved in a sexual assault. The last public comments Witt made about the Rhodes scholarship didn't mention a specific reason for withdrawing.
No enmity towards the Rhodes committee, he said at the College Football Performance Awards. It was just one of those things where it was an unfortunate set of circumstances in terms of timing, but I was very humbled and honored to have been selected just in the finalists.
The Rhodes scandal is the second one to hit Yale this year. In December, head coach Tom Williams was forced to resign after lying about also being a Rhodes scholar candidate and dropping his application in favor of playing a game -- a lie meant to encourage Witt to do the same.
Yale has refused to comment on the Witt situation, but it is clearly another black eye for the prestigious university.
UPDATE: Witt has issued a statement through Mark Magazu, president of Atlas Strategies. The statement in its entirety:
On January 27, 2012, The New York Times published a story regarding Patrick Witt, senior quarterback for Yale University, referencing Patrick's decision to forego his pursuit of the Rhodes Scholarship in order to compete against Harvard in his final college football game.
This was a difficult decision for Patrick, as his candidacy for the Rhodes Scholarship represented a high honor and an opportunity to explore his personal academic interests in international affairs at Oxford. Patrick respects the academic traditions of both Yale and the Rhodes Trust, and he remains grateful for the opportunities each has afforded him.
The New York Times story incorrectly connects Patrick's decision to forego the Rhodes Scholarship with an informal complaint process that had concluded on campus weeks prior to his withdrawal - a process that yielded no disciplinary measures, formal reports, or referrals to higher authorities.
To be clear, Patrick's Rhodes candidacy was never suspended, as the article suggests, and his official record at Yale contains no disciplinary issues.
Patrick formally withdrew his candidacy for the Rhodes Scholarship on Sunday, November 13, in an email to both the Regional Secretary and the American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust. He withdrew after being informed in an email from the Regional Secretary on November 8 that the Rhodes Committee would not reschedule Patrick's final interview, which would overlap Yale's football game versus Harvard on November 19. Though disappointed, Patrick understood the fairness of this decision and accepted it as conclusive.
As this decision process unfolded, Patrick became aware that an anonymous source had contacted the Rhodes Trust with false information purporting to reference an informal - and confidential - complaint within the University. In light of this, and given the short period of time between this occurrence and the potential final interview, the Rhodes Trust asked for an additional letter of reference for Patrick from Yale. By that time, however, Patrick had already informed Athletic Department officials that he intended to withdraw his candidacy due to the inability to reschedule his final interview, and that he would issue a statement to this effect following the Princeton game on November 12.
Patrick's inclination to forego the Rhodes Scholarship in the event of an irreparable scheduling conflict is a longstanding matter of public record. For example, The New Haven Register article entitled Patrick Witt Places 'The Game' Over Rhodes Interview was published before Patrick was notified of the initiation of any informal complaint process. That article quotes Patrick as follows: The commitment I made to this team I believe would come first and I would want to honor that. It wouldn't feel right letting them down for not being there for the Harvard/Yale game.
Regarding the informal complaint referenced in the New York Times article, Yale offers students both informal and formal avenues to address certain issues. An informal complaint is heard by a committee of university community members, but no fact-finding process occurs and there is no burden of proof required for filing a complaint. In Patrick's case, no formal complaint was filed, no written statement was taken from anyone involved, and his request to the Chairman of the committee for a formal inquiry was denied because, he was told, there was nothing to defend against since no formal complaint was ever filed. Further, while the committee can refer an informal complaint into a formal process if more substantial disciplinary action may be warranted, it did not do so in Patrick's case. At that time, all parties, including the University and Patrick, considered the matter ended.
Regarding the information contained in the informal complaint, neither Patrick nor the other parties are permitted by confidentiality rules to discuss details of the matter, though it is important to note that the committee took no further action after hearing the informal complaint. Patrick is aware that the informal complaint was filed by a person he had known for many months prior and with whom he had engaged in an on-again, off-again relationship beginning in the Spring of 2011 and ending about two months before the informal complaint was filed.
Finally, as to Patrick's academic standing at Yale, he has completed all necessary coursework and will graduate upon submission of his senior essay this spring, as is standard for all students in his major.