Another College Football Disgrace

TheGame1920

Back in November, College Guide reported on Patrick Witt, the Yale quarterback who “gave up the opportunity to compete for a Rhodes Scholarship so he can play against Harvard.” The Rhodes interview was apparently scheduled such that it conflicted with the fabled Harvard-Yale game.

This became, in many ways, the feel good sports story of the fall season. A football player, at Yale no less, who forsake his own glory for the love of his school and his loyalty to the team. Witt was, Dick Weiss wrote in the New York Daily News, “the perfect antidote to the Penn State morass.”

Not really. According an article by Richard Perez-Pena at the New York Times:

Witt was no longer a contender for the Rhodes, a rare honor reserved for those who excel in academics, activities and character. Several days earlier, according to people involved on both sides of the process, the Rhodes Trust had learned through unofficial channels that a fellow student had accused Witt of sexual assault. The Rhodes Trust informed Yale and Witt that his candidacy was suspended unless the university decided to re-endorse it.

What’s more, it turns out that editors at Yale’s student newspaper, the Yale Daily News, totally knew this. According to a piece by former Daily News opinion editor Alex Klein at Romenesko:

The News’ editor-in-chief, Max de la Bruyere, decided to sit on the story in mid-November. “It’s more complicated than that,” he told a leader on last year’s editorial board, who asked to remain anonymous. Multiple current and past members of the newspaper’s managing board, all deeply involved in the day-to-day work of the paper, have confirmed that the News has had the story for over two months. In fact, the Times story that broke last night featured reporting from last year’s editor-in-chief, Vivian Yee. She too approached the paper with a tip-off, but its editors chose not to follow the story. The paper even knew that the sexual assault claim had lost Pat an offer to join the Boston Consulting Group after graduation. Even then, they wrote nothing. For reasons personal, social, or political — who can ever tell on a college campus? — the News’ management chose to ignore the bombshell, protecting Pat’s reputation.

The editor-in-chief is right that the story is complicated. And the fact that Witt was accused of sexual assault doesn’t, of course, mean he’s guilty of sexual assault.

But the story Yale offered didn’t just ignore “complication”; it was inaccurate. Witt did not skip out on the chance for a Rhodes Scholarship because the interview for it conflicted with the Yale game; he was ineligible for the scholarship because he was under disciplinary action. Yale, and its student publication, appears to have known this at the time the conflicts-with-the-Harvard-game story was circulating. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer