Rhodes Trust Confirms Slightly Less Mysterious Suspension of Yale Quarterback’s Candidacy

In an effort to elucidate at least part of the vaguest sexual assault story ever, a representative from the Rhodes Trust issued a statement to the New York Times in which he confirms that the Trust suspended Yale quarterback Patrick J. Witt's candidacy after learning of the sexual assault charges filed against him by a fellow student. The Trust had informed Yale on Nov. 4 that Witt's candidacy would be dropped unless the school endorsed him by Nov. 15. When Yale still hadn't endorsed Witt by Nov. 13, Witt made the announcement that he was foregoing his prestigious Rhodes Scholarship and all quad-walking privileges that come with it so that he could play school hero in the Harvard-Yale game (Yale lost anyway). Witt, who at 22 is eligible and being groomed like a prized English setter for the NFL draft, insists that he made the decision to play in the Harvard-Yale game independently from the Rhodes Trust's decision. According to the Times,

Witt and his agent, Mark F. Magazu II, have insisted to The Times and other news organizations that his Rhodes application was never suspended, as The Times reported, and that, in any case, he had decided to withdraw from the competition before he was told, on Nov. 9 or 10, that the allegation had obligated Yale to formally re-endorse him.

"It was essentially a moot point," Witt said in an interview with The Yale Daily News published Wednesday.

The Rhodes Trust and Yale's accounts both contradict Witt, as they say Witt was informed on Nov. 8 that he needed a written endorsement to maintain his Rhodes candidacy. The victim, lost in the shuffle of Witt's cleats from quadrangle to gridiron, remains anonymous, having resolved her complaint through Yale's "informal process."

Rhodes Confirms Suspension of Yale Quarterback's Candidacy [Atlantic Wire]

Rhodes Trust Gives Account of Yale Quarterback's Candidacy [NY Times]

Update: NYT Public Editor Arthur Brisbane has published a critique of Richard Perez-Pena's article, objecting to the article's reliance on anonymous sources. "The Times," he writes,

did not speak with Mr. Witt - who did not return its phone calls, Facebook messages and e-mails - or the female student who was involved. Neither Yale nor the Rhodes Trust was willing to address the matter for the record.

Witt's agent, Mark Magazu of Atlas Strategies, has, according to Brisbane, called the Times piece a "character assassination," given that the story ran with so much unverified evidence. As for the Rhodes Trust withdrawing Witt's candidacy, Magazu claims that Witt didn't learn that he needed Yale's endorsement to remain eligible for the Rhodes Scholarship until after he'd already told Yale and his parents that he was withdrawing his candidacy.

Brisbane concludes with the following assessment of the Times' initial reporting:

Bottom line: I'm not in a position to dispute The Times's finding, although I think the story was handicapped by not having Mr. Witt's version of the timeline. I haven't seen proof that Mr. Witt was no longer a contender when he bowed out.

Much clearer to me is that reporting a claim of sexual assault based on anonymous sourcing, without Mr. Witt's and the woman's side of it, was unfair to Mr. Witt. The Times thought it was a necessary part in its exposé of the feel-good sports story. But the impact of the "sexual assault" label on Mr. Witt is substantial and out of proportion for a case that went uninvestigated and unadjudicated.

So, we're back to having a really vague story.

The Quarterback's Tangled Saga [NY Times]