Amid the burgeoning insanity of college football, the Ivy League has preserved an almost unthinkable détente between sport and scholarship. There are no bowls, athletic scholarships or even away games that cannot be reached by bus. But last week, by virtue of his sheer overachievement, Yale quarterback Patrick Witt found himself at a rare friction point. The senior had a choice: On Nov. 19 he could either fly to his home state of Georgia for the final interview for a Rhodes Scholarship (of which only 32 are awarded annually in the U.S.), or he could remain in New Haven, Conn., and lead his team against archrival Harvard in The Game (a contest that once prompted Yale coach T.A.D. Jones to tell his charges, "Never again in your whole life will you do anything so important"). "I held out hope that I wouldn't have to choose," Witt tells SI. But last Sunday, with Witt's petition to reschedule his interview denied, he was forced to. He withdrew his application in order to suit up for his alma mater.
Scheduling conflict notwithstanding, the transfer from Nebraska had seemed an ideal candidate for postgraduate study at Oxford. Literary and scholastic attainments? Witt, a history major, is an aspiring politician with a 3.91 GPA, and would have used the Rhodes to study international relations. Fondness for and success in sports? The 6'4" pocket passer led the Ivies in throwing yards last season and is now the Bulldogs' alltime passing leader. "I just told him to follow his heart and follow his dreams," says Yale coach Tom Williams. "Don't have any regrets."
Ironically, by choosing to take on the league-leading Crimson rather than fly to Atlanta, Witt demonstrated another Rhodes standard: instinct to lead and to take an interest in one's fellow beings. Come Saturday, to Witt and to his teammates, nothing else will seem so important as a game.