I read with interest this article below, and I am aware that I don’t have all the facts, but a quick read leaves me lamenting the Rhodes Scholarship Committee’s decision. Mr. Elliot F. Gerson is quite articulate and persuasive in each one of his arguments concerning why Mr. Witt, a finalist for the award and the quarterback for Yale University’s Football team, cannot be accommodated, but in a cultural climate of gross athletic excess, seeing a young man climb out of that and qualify for an interview for a Rhodes Scholarship inspires. I can only imagine the complexities around scheduling these interviews, but let’s hope that the Committee will find a way to encourage and to accommodate scholars, who also happen to be athletes; ones who are contributing richly and deeply to their communities.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Yale quarterback Patrick Witt has decided to give up the opportunity to compete for a Rhodes Scholarship in order to play against archrival Harvard.
The school announced Sunday that Witt has withdrawn his Rhodes application, despite being a finalist for the prestigious scholarship. The scholarship interview had been scheduled for Saturday, the same day as what is simply called “The Game.”
Elliot F. Gerson, American Secretary for the Rhodes Trust, told ESPN.com that Witt did ask if anything could be done to accommodate his schedule, but it was not possible.
“We have candidates every year miss games for the interview,” Gerson said.
All Rhodes committees meet the same day around the country, and while the interview time may be moved within the time allotted for all interviews that day, all applicants must be available until around 3 p.m. for re-interviews and, then, the final decision announcement.
“(The) Rhodes Scholarship is an academic award, and is not an award for “scholar-athletes,” despite some popular perception of it in that explicit light,” Gerson said. Although he noted that “(athletic) success is, famously, a factor in our criteria,” Gerson said their selectors look primarily at academic ability and then at factors relating to leadership, character and commitment to serving the public good.
Witt, a senior transfer from Nebraska, said he decided to withdraw the application because “my focus this week is solely on preparing for The Game alongside my teammates and coaches.”
Saturday’s game will be the 128th between the two schools. Harvard has won the last four and nine of the last 10.
Gerson pointed out that Witt can reapply for a Rhodes Scholarship at any time before his 24th birthday. In recent years, as many as 10 of the 32 winners have applied after graduation, he said.