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We celebrate Harvard-Yale because we believe it to be a battle between some of the nation’s best and brightest. The experience would be somewhat cheapened if arguably the most brilliant player, both academically and athletically, doesn’t get to play.
Those who have been following Ivy League football this year probably know that Bulldogs’ field general Patrick Witt is currently deciding whether he will play his final game at Yale against Harvard or interview for the Rhodes Scholarship.
It’s a decision he shouldn’t have to make.
Other than “literary and scholastic achievement," which Witt has achieved in the classroom already with a 3.91 grade point average, playing in the game encompasses all of the standards set forth by Cecil Rhodes. His success at quarterback demonstrates his “energy to use one’s talents to the full, as exemplified by fondness for and success in sports” and “moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in one’s fellow beings.”
Of course, if one reads the Rhodes brochure further, it clarifies that it does not require its applicants to boast “outstanding achievement in organized sports.” And one seeking to argue against playing in The Game could reason that Witt has already demonstrated his ability to lead.
But it’s hard to get around that third standard: “truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship.” Truth, courage, and kindliness can be shown in other ways, certainly. Unselfishness and fellowship? These definitely hint at standing with your team. And “devotion to duty?" That one’s pretty clear cut.
Barring a change of circumstances, Witt would need to break away from some of the virtues the Rhodes Scholarship honors. From all of the articles I’ve read, Yale’s quarterback seems to understand the gravity of his decision and the prestige of both the scholarship he is pursuing and the storied football game he might be missing. While I may disagree with Witt’s final decision, I will certainly respect that he has considered his options thoroughly and that he will have to face both his family and his team when he chooses.
Rather, it is the Rhodes Trust which is being hypocritical if it refuses to budge on the timing or location of the interview. Witt has options. His outstanding GPA and offer from Boston Consulting Group show that. So does the interest he has generated from NFL scouts. He has a bright future ahead of him, regardless of what he chooses. It’s the Rhodes that will come off worse for the wear.
Let’s imagine for a second that Witt chooses to forego the Rhodes Scholarship and take on the Crimson instead. His legacy will be marked, perhaps only slightly, by the fact that he turned down the Rhodes Scholarship because he saw something else to be more important. Here, Witt’s moral decision goes against the Rhodes Scholarship. Does the Rhodes Trust really want people to think that the right thing to do is to turn down its scholarship?
Next, let’s imagine that Witt ditches his final college game to go to an interview. How can you, the Rhodes Trust, name as a scholar someone who left his duty to his team in order to pursue individual glory? Is that the kind of unselfishness the Rhodes Scholarship seeks to honor? On the other hand, if the hypocrisy of the Rhodes is recognized a little too late, can the Rhodes reject someone because it disagrees with a decision that it mandated he make?
The Rhodes Scholarship should recognize the inherent problems with forcing Witt to choose between his interview and his football game.
When Florida State’s Myron Rolle was applying for a Rhodes, he was flown from his interview in Alabama to his team’s game against Maryland. He won the game and the Rhodes.
Witt has reportedly been offered private plane rides as well, but the timing of the game and the potential for a callback render these offers useless.
But I have a hard time believing that there is nothing that can be done. Zar Zavala '11 was able to make it back to campus in time for the second half of last year’s Game after interviewing in Texas. If interviews can be scheduled such that a player who does not receive playing time can make it to the second half, there must be some way to ensure that a starter can make it back in time for kickoff.
Don’t tell me that Harvard, Yale, and the Rhodes Trust can’t figure something out.
—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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