The NCAA is a hot mess lately, wrought with conference realignments, pay-for-play scandals, and, oh yeah, alleged child sex abuse cover-ups.
Instead of getting into the Penn State case, which a lot of other people have eloquently gotten into, I’m going to focus on a true scholar-athlete, exactly the type of individual the NCAA loves to emphasize.
This week’s Dude of the Week is Yale University quarterback Patrick Witt. He transferred after two years at Nebraska, and in two-plus years at Yale, he’s on pace to set to break all of the school’s relevant passing records. He has a 3.91 GPA, a job offer at a consulting firm in Los Angeles, and maybe a shot at the NFL.
But right now, Witt has a giant decision to make that will affect the rest of his life. In just over a week, Witt will interview for the Rhodes Scholarship, widely considered to be the most prestigious scholarship in the world, in his hometown of Atlanta. On the very same day, Yale plays Harvard in New Haven in one of college football’s oldest rivalries. It will be Witt’s final college game.
The 30-minute interview, with the opportunity for callbacks, is at 8am. The game starts at 12p. You do the math.
The school has permission to seek out a charter flight to get Witt back to campus as quickly as possible. The Ivy League says they will not change the game time. His Yale coach was a former Rhodes Scholar candidate at Stanford, who passed up his interview for NFL minicamp with the San Francisco 49ers.
To me, it seems like he wants to play. Desperately. As amazing as the Rhodes is, he seems deeply committed to his teammates:
“In the description of the Rhodes, leadership is a major facet of who they select as candidates and finalists,” Witt said in an interview. “In some ways, if I were to attend the interview and miss the game, I wouldn’t be acting as the leader that they selected to interview.”
In a way, he’s right. Football has allowed him to fully express and develop the leadership that got him nominated in the first place. As this Harvard editorial correctly points out, the kid has options. If he decides to skip the interview, he has a job offer and will graduate with a degree from one of the world’s finest universities. Oh, and he could be taken in the NFL Draft.
But let’s say he goes for the interview. Witt did mention if he won the scholarship and got selected in the Draft, he would take his talents to Oxford first. He transferred from Nebraska for more academic (and playing) opportunities. He obviously places a high priority on his education.
It’s a decision I would not like to make. Like I’m sure Witt is doing, I would pursue every option to make attending the interview and playing in the game a reality. One of my favorite moments from college football is Florida State safety Myron Rolle flying in from his Rhodes interview in Alabama, during the 2nd half of a game against Maryland. Rolle won the scholarship, and the Seminoles won the game. A storybook scenario for all involved.
I can only hope Witt gets the same opportunity, and this is a decision he doesn’t have to make.