Thursday, November 24, 2011

Scholarship started for victim in Yale Bowl parking lot accident

A scholarship in honor of Nancy Barry, who was struck and killed by a U-Haul in Lot D before Saturday/s Yale/Harvard football game, was been created by her employers Jacalyn E.S. Bennett and Company.

The company made a $2,000 contribution to the Massachusetts College of Art where Barry graduated from in 2003. For those who wish to donate, make checks payable to Massachusetts College of Art and Design Foundation, 61 Huntington Ave., Boston, Mass. 02115 and write "The Nancy Ann Scholarship Fund" in the memo section.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lively debate or crossing the line?

In the last few days the comments on this blog have taken a turn for the worse. A relatively simple post stating that junior linebacker Will McHale has been voted captain for next year's team turned into target practice on McHale's leadership ability and bordered on character assassination. Rather than spend part of the holiday season deleting more of these comments, I made the decision to delete the entire entry. One reader asked me for an explanation since he/she viewed it as a lively debate.

I have a different opinion. I think it was a case of people sitting behind the their computer and posting hurtful anonymous comments about a college junior. If comments were directed at me, as some have been over the past three years, I would post them since I am getting paid to deal with it. The same thing with Yale football coach Tom Williams and athletic director Tom Beckett. However, I found some of the comments directed McHale as crossing the line. It is not the first time I have felt that was. I have always been amazed at the cattiness of some of the comments to this blog. Quarterback Patrick Witt is a popular target as he was subjected to utter nastiness even on entries announcing an honor for his academic achievement. Now it is McHale in the crosshairs.

I have taken great pride in maintaining this blog and providing updates on everything from scheduling, recruiting and even the results of the JV games because I believe Yale fans deserve to have this beat covered in the same manner with which we cover UConn football and basketball. However, I am beginning to wonder if I am catering to the wrong crowd. Most of the 500-700 hits this blog gets on a daily basis come from the silent majority of fans wanting to keep up with the team's progress. There is a select few who look at this blog as their sounding board where they can take shots at anybody they choose. This is not a message board nor do I have an aspirations for it to become one. It is a forum for me to provide updates on the team and state my opinion on matters surrounding the team. There is at least one message board dedicated to Ivy League football and if you wish disparage members of the team without anything to back up those attacks, I would suggest you take the comments there. I seem to have appealed to the lowest common denominator  among the Yale fan base and may have to rethink how frequently I provide updates since I seem to be giving these people a forum to spew their propaganda.

Look, I know this is a tough time for Yale football program. This year's squad was too good to finish 5-5 and get lit up by Harvard 45-7. Add in the tragic accident in Lot D before the Harvard game and the internal investigation surrounding Williams claims of being a Rhodes Scholarship candidate combined for a rather forgettable week. I am sure there are some frustrated people out there but if anybody thinks that this blog will be the place to take those frustrations out on Yale's newly-named captain couldn't be more incorrect.

Finally, I want to thank people who frequent this blog. I regret taking this step but everybody has their breaking point and enough is enough.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Haynes named first team All-Ivy

Senior linebacker Jordan Haynes was Yale's lone representative on the All-Ivy League first team.

Haynes, the team captain, led Yale with 81 tackles while sharing for the team lead with five tackles for losses and two fumble recoveries.

Chris Smith, who was honored as a receiver and returnman, offensive guard Gabe Fernandez, running back Alex Thomas, defensive tackle Jake Stoller, linebacker Will McHale, cornerback Drew Baldwin and return specialist were second-team selections.

Quarterback Patrick Witt and receiver Deon Randall were honorable mention selections.

Princeton running back Chuck Dibilio was named the league's rookie of the year while Penn offensive tackle Greg Van Roten and linebacker Erik Rask, Dartmouth running back Nick Schwieger and Harvard defensive tackle Josue Ortiz and defensive back Matthew Hanson were unanimous All-Ivy selections.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rough ending for Yale's seniors

When Jordan Haynes and his fellow seniors came to New Haven, expectations were high.

Yale had won 17 games over the previous two seasons and visions of Ivy League championships were bouncing around in an impressive recruiting class.

However, their run at Yale ended without any league titles, no H-Y-P crowns and one of the most humbling losses in recent Yale football history.

Haynes, the linebacker and team captain, was a rock solid spokesman right to the end trying his best to express his disappointment after a 45-7 loss to Harvard, the worst in the series since 1982.

"It came down to us not executing against a good football team and being the captain and ending my career this way it is definitely a low point for me in my 12 years of playing football," Haynes said. "All I can hope for is we have a good group of football players (coming back) and Yale football doesn't end here. I can hope that the guy in the coming years can make things happen."

The loss was a tough one for record-breaking quarterback Patrick Witt who threw three interceptions including one which was returned for a touchdown.

"In the same way that a pitcher goes out there and get shelled a little bit, I just didn't have my good stuff today and it is unfortunate on such a big stage not to perform the way you know you can," Witt said.

The focus in the coming days and week figure to center around the future of Yale coach Tom Williams, the subject of a Yale internal investigation to verify he is the Rhodes Scholarship candidate he said he was when applying for the Yale job and in recent interviews when Witt was going through the process of picking to play in the Harvard game and pass on his Rhodes final interview.

A source told me that Stanford has confirmed Williams' claim that he was endorsed to pursue a Rhodes Scholarship during his days at the school while other sources believe Williams could be in danger of losing his job.

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One confirmed dead in accident at Lot D of Yale Bowl

A 30-year-old Massachusetts woman was struck and killed by an out of control U-Haul on Saturday morning according to New Haven Officer David Hartman.

Hartman said that three women were struck by the U-Haul around 9:30 a.m. and the U-Haul then collided with two other U-Hauls.

At 10:16 a.m., the woman was pronounced dead at Yale-New Haven Hospital. The other trwo women were taken to area hospitals. Hartman said one suffered relatively minor injuries and the other is in serious but stable condition.

"The drriver of U-Haul has been taken to police headquarters," Hartman said. "Accident reconstruction team is on scene and is investigating. This investigation in its infancy and we will try to get you more information as quickly as possible.

"This is treated as a crime scene and cars will not be (allowed) into this area. There will be other exits than can be used."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Some thoughts on the Rhodes aftermath

This has been an interesting couple of weeks covering the Yale football team, to say the least.

Patrick Witt's pursuit of the Rhodes Scholarship and then his decision to withdraw as a candidate because he was not willing to skip Saturday's game against Harvard became a national story. I couldn't even come up with another sports story which generated nearly as much attention at an Ivy League school in recent memory. Now the story of his quest for the Rhodes Scholarship has taken a bizarre turn.

Yale coach Tom Williams has been listed as a Rhodes Scholarship candidate on every bio I have found on him but the Rhodes Trust has no record of him submitting an application. Yale has started an internal investigation to determine if Williams has misrepresented himself or even flat out lied about his Rhodes Scholarship credentials.

I think it is about to get interesting. When I spoke to Williams after Thursday's practice he said there was no intention to deceive anybody on the issue and he never claimed to be a Rhodes finalist. He is correct in that but he did speak as if he was faced with the same situation as Witt recently wrestled with. He did not. Williams said he was endorsed to pursue a Rhodes Scholarship but never went as far as Witt did in the process. His future employment at Yale could hinge on a few factors. First, will people at Stanford substantiate his claims? Next, will the people conducting the internal investigation at Yale consider him to be a Rhodes candidate if he never submitted an official application or met with a Rhodes Scholarship committee? Finally, how much did Williams play up his Rhodes Scholarship candidacy when he was interviewing for the job at Yale. I am hearing rumbling that his Rhodes Scholarship past did play a factor in him getting the job at Yale. If he played up how far along he went in the process and it is thought that he misled the people involved in interviewing him for the Yale job, he could be a former Yale coach soon.

I have found him to be very straight forward in my dealings with him on any and all subjects and I believe that he did receive an endorsement to pursue a Rhodes Scholarship when he was at Stanford and that his pursuit of a pro football career led him to short circuiting any aspirations of going all the way through the Rhodes process. I also think he did a poor job in making distinctions of just how far he went in the Rhodes process during recent interviews. The way he spoke about his past made reporters, including me, refer to him as a Rhodes finalist. He never used those words in describing himself but also never said he considering going after the Rhodes before changing his mind early in the process which seems to be a more accurate portrayal of the events 19 years ago. I find it hard to believe he would make up this stuff about a Rhodes Scholarship candidacy, especially when he had a couple of stints at Stanford where it would have been so easy for him to be caught up in a lie.

Another question I have is where was Yale in verifying the items on his resume when he applied for the job with the Bulldogs. Two months passed between the time that Jack Siedlecki "retired" and Williams was hired. If it comes out that Williams' Rhodes Scholarship claims are false, somebody at Yale will have some major explaining to do.

Something tells me that the post-game interview session tomorrow could be rather interesting considering recent events.

Now on the subject of Witt's decision. Never in all the times I interviewed the quarterback on the Rhodes Scholarship matter did I ever get a sense that missing the Harvard game was an option. He always planned to play on Saturday and said as much when I did the story on him being a Rhodes finalist. The issue was attempting to get an interview when it didn't conflict with the game. Friday interviews have taken place in the past, including back in 2008 when Yale cornerback Casey Gerald had his interview in Houston and was able to make it to Boston to play in The Game. Once Witt realized that there would be no Friday interviews in Atlanta, he made his decision to pull himself out of contention for a Rhodes Scholarship. If there is one question that I wanted to ask Witt and would have if he had not refused interview requests for the last week and a half, it would be why didn't he apply in the New England region. He had that option as a Yale student and logistically would have been more realistic for him to interview for the Rhodes and play in the football game tomorrow.

There have been people critical of Witt saying his claim that he left Nebraska and transferred to Yale to be challenged more academically proves he places sports over academics. I disagree. He carries a 3.9 grade point average at Yale so obviously he has put his money where is mouth is in terms of being a student-athlete. His decision came down to honoring his commitment to the Yale football team. He was there in the spring, in the summer and the fall as an offensive leader and I'd question what his legacy with the Bulldogs would look like if he was a no show for tomorrow's game? I believe Witt's future is still incredibly bright even without a Rhodes Scholarship and his decision did not come as a surprise to me or any of his teammates or coaches. The final act in Witt's picking football over the Rhodes Scholarship will play out tomorrow while Williams story could just be starting to unfold.

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Harvard rolls past Yale in JV game

It was not the best of starts to the football portion of The Game festivities as Yale lost 37-6 to Harvard in the junior varsity version of the game.

A bad snap on a punt, interception and fumble led to three of Harvard's four touchdowns.

Henry Furman played the entire game at quarterback and passed for 120 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Grant Wallace for Yale’s only points.

Russell Perkins led Yale with five catches for 41 yards while Wynston Bouknight carried the ball nine times for 37 yards.

Defensively, Kolu Buck had a team-high 10 tackles.

Tyler Caveness had scoring runs of 5 and 29 yards while Tyler Hamblin ran for one score and passed for another for Harvard.

There was a scary moment with 3:12 left in the third quarter as freshman linebacker Everett Johnson collided with Harvard quarterback Cory Briggs. Johnson laid motionless on the Yale sideline for an extended period while he was attended to by medical personnel. The good news was that Johnson was later seen on the sideline chatting with teammates.

JV game is today at 1 p.m.

Injuries and a lack of depth at quarterback and offensive line have limited the number of junior varsity games Yale has played this season but the Bulldogs will host Harvard at 1 p.m. on Clint Frank Field in the final JV game of 2011.

It will be interesting to see what Yale does at quarterback since the Bulldogs only carry four QBs and it would be risky to play either backup QB John Whitelaw or Jake Semones, who has been outstanding as the holder for field goals and extra points.It could be Henry Furman's show for the entire game unless one of the players who came in as quarterbacks and converted to another position return to quarterback today.

This is also a big recruiting weekend for the Bulldogs. Among the recruits expected to be on campus are Derek Ross and his twin brother Dustin, both offensive linemen at Oak Hills in Cincinnati, Notre Dame of West Haven lineman Ludovic Richardson, Cheshire tight end/linebacker Sebastian Little, Berlin linebacker/defensive back Tommy Undercuffler, Xavier lineman Sean Marinan, Tyler Drake, a linebacker out of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale (and younger brother of Yale DE Dylan Drake), Bronxville (N.Y.) running backs Christian Conway and Jackson Conway and defensive linemen Pat McHugh out of St. Anthony's (N.Y.) Undercuffler, the Conway brothers and McHugh are the only ones who have orally committed to Yale.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thomas spreading his wings

Despite all the hype surrounding senior quarterback Patrick Witt's decision to skip his Rhodes Scholarship final interview so he could play in Saturday's Yale/Harvard game and the recent controversy surrounding how head coach Tom Williams portrayed his own pursuit of the Rhodes Scholarship 19 years ago, there actually is a game on Saturday. So you'll excuse me if I put this Rhodes Scholar stuff on the backburner and turn my attention to one of the key players for Yale

Senior tailback Alex Thomas came to Yale after rewriting the Connecticut High School rushing record book. It seemed like the perfect segue as former New Britain High star Mike McLeod was leaving with most of Yale's rushing records and another homegrown talent would take over for McLeod.

It didn't quite work out like that. Thomas didn't have as good of an offensive line as McLeod did earlier in his career and he was still adjusting to life as an Ivy League student-athlete as a sophomore in 2009. It all came together as Thomas ran for 124 yards against Harvard in the 2009 season finale. Now he will leave among Yale's top 15 career rushers but more than anything, he will depart Yale as a better and more confident person than he was upon arrival.

"Adjusting academically was one of the toughest things I've had to deal with in my life," Thomas said. "I think last year when I felt a little more at ease. I saw an end in sight, I saw the work paying off. It was definitely encouraging to see that improvement. This year, I am a lot more at ease and saw the improvement.

"I would say once I got halfway through my credits, at the end of the sophomore year going into junior year, I knew that I was going to make it. It was not going to be easy. It is still not over, I still have a lot of work to put in ahead. Knowing that there is an end in sight and I was going to make it was definitely encouraging to me and it carried over to every other aspect of my life here, socially and athletically."

Thomas was the leading rusher on Yale's junior varsity team as a freshman but managed just one varsity carry for one yard in 2008. Seeing most of the coaching staff leave after the season didn't make the adjustment go too easily. The new coaching staff knew of Thomas' gaudy high school numbers but also saw a kid still trying to fit in.

"It started to me with his confidence in the classroom,' Williams said. "When I got here, he was coming off that freshman year and he was an introvert, he would hardly look up, his shoulders would slump and it related to the struggle in the classroom and just get situated. Once he started to do better in school and getting used to being at Yale, his productivity increased on the football field. Now he is one of the leaders on our team. It is great to see, he smiles, you can have a conversation, he talks about a lot of stuff. It is great to see a young man blossom like that."

There will be more on Thomas in Saturday's edition of the Register.


Tom Williams clarifies his remarks on his Rhodes Scholarship candidacy

Yale football coach Tom Williams wanted to clarify the level in which he pursued a Rhodes Scholarship as a senior at Stanford in the early 1990s.

Several publications including the New Haven Register have referred to Williams as a Rhodes Scholarship finalist based on his comments that he faced the same situation that Yale senior quarterback Patrick Witt recently found himself in. The New York Times ran a story saying that the Rhodes Trust does not have a record of anybody by Williams’ name having applied for a Rhodes Scholarship from 1991-93 when Williams would have been eligible to apply.

After Thursday’s practice, Williams addressed the topic stating that he was endorsed by a faculty advisor at Stanford to apply for the Rhodes but never went as far in the process as Witt did.

Williams was asked if he was a finalist for the prestigious academic scholarship.

“No, nor did I intend to,” Williams said. “If I misrepresented that, it wasn't my intention. I was talking about making a choice of pursuing a Rhodes and pursuing an opportunity to keep playing football. That was all that was. We just have to make sure we clarify it. These guys (Yale spokesmen) are here to make sure it gets represented correctly, that is all it was. There is no intention to deceive. I never said I was a finalist for the Rhodes candidacy. The Rhodes shouldn't have any record of me because I didn't do it. I didn't go through the process; I pulled out long before it got to that point.”

Williams’ resume, dating back to his days as a Stanford assistant coach and up to his current biography, has been consistent in referring to him as a Rhodes candidate which would be the case had he been endorsed by Stanford to begin the application process.

Witt, Yale’s all-time leader in passing yards, attempts and completions, was named a Rhodes finalist on Nov. 1. However, with his interview scheduled the same day as the Yale/Harvard game, Witt withdrew from consideration for the Rhodes so he could play on Saturday.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Parking passes are sold out

Anybody without a parking pass for Saturday's Yale/Harvard game are out of luck as Yale announced that it has sold out of parking passes for The Game. What that means is those people with tickets to the game but without a parking pass will need to park downtown and take a shuttle to the Yale Bowl.

Game tickets are still available for purchase.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Smith, Moyer won't play against Harvard

An ankle injury will keep Yale's most dangerous receiver out of Saturday's season finale against Harvard and senior linebacker Wes Moyer will also be out after injured his knee in last week's Princeton win. Other than starting tackle Roy Collins, who is still nursing an ankle injury, it looks like Yale will have the rest of its players for The Game.

For those who want to see the future of Yale/Harvard football, the JV game is set for Friday at 1 p.m. at Clint Frank Field. The good news is you won't need a parking pass for that one but if you have tickets for the varsity game and don't have a parking pass by now, you might be out of luck. The only passes left are for lots X and Y behind Yale Field and according to Yale officials, those passes are going quickly.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Update on parking situation for The Game

Only parking passes for Lots X and Y, behind Yale Field, are remaining for Saturday's Yale/Harvard football game.

Unlike the other Yale home games, no general admission parking will be available for purchase on the day of the game as Yale officials attempt to cut down on traffic jams going into and leaving the Yale Bowl

In order to park at the Bowl for The Game, parking passes are required. Parking passes must be purchased in advance and are available on a first come first served basis. In order to purchase a parking pass, fans must purchase at least two game tickets; two purchased tickets will then entitle them to buy one parking pass.

Parking passes can be purchased online by visiting or by calling the Yale Athletics Ticket Office at (203) 432-1400. All Yale Bowl parking lots will open at 8:30 am on Saturday.

There will be shuttle buses taking fans to and from parking lots in downtown New Haven for those who don't have parking passes at Yale Bowl parking lots.

Parking is available for a daily rate of $3 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Crown Street and Temple Street garages. The Orchard Sherman Lot will also be available at 9 a.m. for a cost of $10. The lot is located between North and South Frontage roads approximately one mile from Yale Bowl.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Witt will be playing against Harvard

Patrick Witt has decided to play in Saturday's season finale against Havard and is no longer actively pursuing the Rhodes Scholarship.

Witt made the decision official on Sunday, a day after he set Yale's career record for passing yards.

Witt made it through the first two levels of the process for the Rhodes Scholarship and was named a finalist for the prestigious scholarship. His final interview was scheduled for Saturday in Atlanta, meaning that he would have to pick between attending the interview and staying around in case the Rhodes committee requested a follow-up interview or suiting up against Harvard.

“I will be playing in the Yale-Harvard game this Saturday," Witt said in a statement released by Yale. "I have withdrawn my application for the Rhodes Scholarship. My focus this week is solely on preparing for the Game alongside my teammates and coaches.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Jordan Haynes, Patrick Witt Academic All-District selections

Yale senior linebacker Jordan Haynes and senior quarterback Patrick Witt were named to the Capital One Academic All-District 1 squad.

Haynes, the Yale captain, leads the Bulldogs with 70 tackles and has recovered two fumbles. He also carries a 3.62 grade point average with a double major of political science and international studies.

Witt, a Rhodes Scholar finalist and also a finalist for the Campbell Trophy, had thrown for 1,763 yards with 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He already owns Yale's career records in passes completed and attempted and needs 54 yards to break Alvin Cowan's school record for career passing yards.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Friday night Rhodes Interview for Patrick Witt seems unlikely

I just got off the phone with Elliot F. Gerson, the American Secretary for the Rhodes Trust who said that he does not believe it is possible for Yale senior quarterback Patrick Witt's Rhodes Scholarship final interview to be moved from Nov. 19.

I reached out to him because back in 2008, Yale defensive back Casey Gerald was in the same situation that Witt currently finds himself in. Gerald was able to be interviewed on Friday night in Houston and flew out the next morning to Boston. He made it back in time to play in the Yale/Harvard game.

Gerson said that the region that Witt is a finalist in is not planning to do any Friday night interviews but more importantly, if Witt were to do an interview in Atlanta early on the morning of the 19th, it is not as simple as jumping on a plane bound for Connecticut.

"Very few of the districts interview on Friday and they all interview on Saturday," Gerson said. "Some years, if some of the 16 districts, if they have a lot of people to interview, if they have a long 'short list' somewhere between 10-16 will do some of the interviews on Friday night and do the rest on Saturday. The point that people aren't appreciating here is that the often require reinterviews as well and the reinterview would be some time in the mid to late afternoon so it really isn't possible to leave and be able to come back for a reinterview especially if he is interviewed in Atlanta, even if we gave him an interview Friday night - they don't do it Friday night - but first thing Saturday morning, he couldn't be back to New Haven and then back again in Atlanta for a possible reinterview at 3 o'clock which is the time that the Atlanta district schedules its reinterviews. The reinterview is a critical part of this process as well."

What this means is that Witt has three options.

1) He can play in the game against Harvard and take himself out of contention for the Rhodes Scholarship
2) He can skip the game and take part in the interview and any possible re-interviews requested by the Rhodes Scholarship committee
3) He can defer his decision and apply for a Rhodes Scholarship next year.

"This is not a simple matter involving changing an interview time," Gerson said. "All Rhodes committees meet the same day around the country. The committees have seven members who specially assemble for a reception with the finalists and the interviews and decision. The interview is central to our process, and is not at all like interviews for most other kinds of opportunities or awards or jobs, and where rescheduling an interview would seem an easy matter, and usually is. This is not remotely a matter of deferring to one or even several other peoples' convenience as interviewers, and it involves an intense and dynamic process over two days involving about 20 people each, and simultaneously in 16 committees across the country."

In an e-mail, Gerson provided some more background of the protocol for attending the Rhodes' final interview.

The Rhodes final interviews have been on Saturdays (morning and afternoons) for at least 50 years. We surveyed colleges and our selectors most recently about 5 years ago and Friday/Saturday remained the preferred dates for our finalist reception and interviews.

Any date we might pick would have some students in conflicts. The dates are set a year in advance and are on the application, which has been available since July. Mr. Witt should certainly have known of the conflict when he applied.

The precise interview time for him in Atlanta, which we could change for his convenience within the time allotted for all interviews, is essentially irrelevant in this context. Candidates have to reappear for possible reinterviews at a time set by the secretary just after all candidates have been interviewed once, usually around 3 p.m. on the Saturday. The finalists must remain there until the committee is certain of its decisions and with no further need to reinterview, and until the decisions are announced.

Importantly, this is not Mr. Witt's only chance to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship. Many students apply (or reapply) the year after they graduate from college, and some two or even three years later, as long as they are not yet 24. Many think they will be stronger applicants then and no doubt some choose to apply then because of conflicts such as his, or for other senior year issues, even simply being too busy with senior year academic work, which is intense for most students of the calibre we see. In recent years, we have has as many as 10 of the 32 winners apply after they have graduated.

We have candidates every year miss games for the interview (as others would miss other games and/or concerts, or other important engagements, if it were a day different from Saturday). We of course regret this but some conflicts are sadly inevitable.

Finally, 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. I think the fact that it is often perceived that way makes it somewhat harder for people to appreciate that the problem you decry is simply a kind of regrettable but unavoidable conflict. Athletic success is, famously, a factor in our criteria deriving from the late 19th Century Will of Cecil Rhodes, and we still honor it. But while exceptional sporting success benefits a Rhodes candidate, our selectors look primarily at academic ability and then at factors relating to leadership, character and likely commitment to serving the public good.

We are very sorry when our schedule presents conflicts such as this.

Witt has stated that he knew of the potential conflict if he were selected as a Rhodes Scholarship. Earlier this week, he said that had he suffered a season-ending injury early in the year he would have regretted not applying for the scholarship. He is still weighing his options and his decision will come next week.


Alex Thomas looks good to go

Alex Thomas looked pretty good in practice on Thursday and after missing the last two games, Yale's leading rusher should be back in the lineup on Saturday against Princeton.

Thomas injured his left knee in the fourth quarter of the Oct. 22 game against Penn. He practiced a bit last week and was a game-time decision but when he came out to test his knee in last week's Brown game, it did not feel right so he was held out. Thomas is anxious to get back into action.
"It's been frustrating, obviously I wanted to get back sooner but I have been rehabbing and doing whatever I could to get back as soon as possible," Thomas said. "It is never fun watching and wanting to be out there."

Yale coach Tom Williams has seen Thomas make tremendous strides in practice this week.
"He looked great," Williams said. "I teased him, I said 'is the A-Train back? He said 'it is more like the trolley right now but I am getting close.' He looked good today and he is getting close, he made some good cuts where he looked like the old Alex."

There was no sign of junior receiver Chris Smith at practice so I'd be surprised to see him in action on Saturday when Yale plays at Princeton.
As has been the custom all season long, NFL scouts were checking out Yale's practice. On Thursday, representatives from the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins were in attendance. On Tuesday, the Dallas Cowboys had a scout at practice.
The Yale admissions department is currently looking over the transcripts and applications of some players who have committed to Yale including Berlin's Tommy Undercuffler, who projects as a linebacker/safety for the Bulldogs. Others looking to get the approval include Bronxville (N.Y.) High brothers Christian and Jackson Conway, Lake Brantley (Fla.) linebacker Adam VanValkenburg and New Jersey prospects Matt Rubino and Roger Kilgore.
Finally, if you want to hear Williams' thoughts on the Penn State situation and firing of legendary head coach Joe Paterno, here is a video on the su

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Patrick Witt's scheduling dilemma story picking up steam

Patrick Witt has heard the "I'd love to be faced with that problem" so many times in the last week or so that he simply lost track. However, he doesn't look at the possibility of either skipping the Harvard game in a week in a half or kissing goodbye his dreams of becoming a Rhodes Scholar as a win-win situation.

“It’s exciting and stressful,” Witt said. “To be named a finalist is a huge honor and something I am excited about. At the same time, different people are weighing in on the issue and I don't want to let anybody down so it is a distraction, I wouldn't say it’s a welcome distraction. It is obviously a great opportunity but at the same time, I'd love to have a decision made and move forward from here knowing what I am going to do.

“It is tough. I lean on people around me, I lean on my family, on Coach (Tom Williams) to help me make the decision but it is difficult. There are people who will second guess your decision and think you are wrong and that is fine. I will make the right decision for me, my team and the university.”

When Witt began the process of applying for the Rhodes Scholarship, he was fully aware that if he became a finalist, the interview would take place in Atlanta in the morning of the Yale/Harvard game. Knowing of the possibility of being asked to stay behind for a follow-up interview would mean not playing in his final collegiate game.

“I don't know if a clear answer is going to reveal itself to me so I have to make the best decision with the information I do have but in a lot of ways this is a decision of principle,” Witt said. “Coach mentioned that leadership is a major facet on who they select as candidates and as finalists. My big arena to display my leadership is on the football field as the quarterback. I have a duty to uphold and 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.”

Witt’s dilemma, which was the subject of a report on the NBC Nightly News on Monday, drew writers from the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News Service to Yale’s weekly media gathering at Mory’s on Tuesday. Representatives from the Dallas Morning News, Boston Globe and have also requested an interview with Witt.

Witt’s hope is that his Rhodes interview could be moved so he could both go to the interview and play in the game. That is what happened in 2008 when Yale defensive back Casey Gerald was faced with the same situation. Gerald was able to interview the night before The Game and fly out the following morning.

That possibility still exists and there is a lot of work behind closed doors to try to make that happen.

“I am still in contact with the folks at the Rhodes,” Witt said. “I am still trying to work out some kind of solution from this. When I hear definitively one way or another, I'll go back and make my decision based on that. At this point, it is all speculation because I haven't made a decision yet. Hopefully I won't have to. I will continue to exhaust every means possible.

“They (the Rhodes committee members) are very understanding. In their defense, these dates were set long before the season started. I knew when they were. I understood the conflict that could exist and I guess in some ways I held out hope that we could work around it.

Yale football coach Tom Williams was faced with a similar decision when he was Witt's age. The timing of the Rhodes final interviews was a little different but he had to pick between attending a San Francisco 49ers training camp after wrapping up an impressive career at Stanford or heading to his Rhodes Scholarship interview. Williams picked football and has no regrets.

"He and I have talked frequently about this situation and I still believe you have to follow your heart, whatever your heart tells you," Williams said. "If you do that, you won't be disappointed, you won't have any regrets. I am one of those people that say you live your life with no regrets and just told him to soul search and do what feels right. I think if you do that, you can't go wrong.

"I think you would be inhuman if you didn't have stress associated with this. I just think the nature of this decision can weigh on you and you have the media, you have preparation for your games, nothing changes. You still have all these things you have to take care of and are involved in addition to this heavy decision you have to make."

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Alex Thomas on pace to return to field

Senior running back Alex Thomas was not ruled out of Saturday's game against Brown until about an hour before kickoff. But he was back at practice on Tuesday and Yale coach Tom Williams believes he will be good to go after missing the last two games with a knee injury.
"He got some reps early in practice and then we shut it down," Williams said. "I talked to him right after and he said it felt.. I fully expect to have him on Saturday. I thought we would have him on last Saturday but he said when he was warming up, it didn't feel good.  He came out ready to go, he went through all the motions and wasn't ready."
The news isn't as positive on junior receiver Chris Smith, who had a walking boot on his right foot after injuring his ankle on Saturday.

"I don't know if he will have him on Saturday," Williams said. "The walking boot on Tuesday is a precaution. Tomorrow we will reevaluate it and see if he can get some reps. I would anticipate him not being available this weekend.. That was kind of a freak deal.

"He made that one-handed catch and the guy fell on the back of his leg and rolled him up. Totally different injury. He is tough and if there is a way he can go, he will go."

Yale used both Philippe Panico and Kyle Cazzetta on field-goal tries on Tuesday and Williams didn't rule out making a change this week.
"The placekicking thing, we have to find a guy to get points when we have to go out and get points and do it when it is a big game," Williams said. "Competition always but we are always making a bigger emphasis of it this week. He's been great as a punter but he can also do that. When he kicks the ball, it goes (up). He has a nice little lob wedge but we have to get his timing a little quicker, He is coming. I would like him not to have to focus on that (field goals and extra points) but if we have to..

Williams has not ruled out making a switch at punt returner either Gio Christodoulou lost fumbles in the fourth quarter in each of the last two games. Christodoulou is Yale's all-time leader in punt return yardage but when the team works on punt returns tomorrow, both Christodoulou and Deon Randall will get looks.

"We are competing there. We will give a chance to give him and Deon back there and the best guy is going to play on Saturday," Williams said.

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Patrick Witt's scheduling dilemma to be featured on tonight's NBC Nightly News

NBC Nightly News will air a piece tonight on the scheduling conflict Yale senior quarterback Patrick Witt could be faced with on Nov. 19.

A crew was on campus on Friday and at Yale's game with Brown on Saturday getting interviews and footage for the story and here is a link to a portion of the interview

For those who haven't been following the story, Witt is a Rhodes Scholarship finalist and his final interview is scheduled for Nov. 19 in Atlanta. That is the same day that Yale hosts Harvard in the regular-season finale. Three years ago, the Dallas regional committee allowed Yale cornerback Casey Gerald to do his final interview on Friday night. He was able to fly out first thing Saturday morning and get to Harvard Stadium in time for the game. Yale officials, who played a key role in getting Gerald's interview moved, are attempting to do the same for Witt.

When I spoke to him for a story I wrote on the subject last week, Witt said his inclination is to honor his commitment to his team. He is scheduled to be in attendance at tomorrow's gathering at Mory's with media members so look for an update on the subject at some point tomorrow.

NBC Nightly News is slated to start at 6:30 p.m.

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Another reported Yale commitment

It's been a while since my last recruiting update although that could be changing. This is normally the time of the year when likely letters start going out to recruits who have been given the OK from the Yale admissions department for early admission.

In the meantime, the Orlando Sentinel is reporting that linebacker Adam VanValkenburg out of Lake Brantley High has committed to Yale.

I'd expect that VanValkenburg as well as the Conway brothers out of Bronxville, N.Y. High and Holy Spirit (N.J.) receiver Matt Rubino to be among the first players to receive likely letters from Yale.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Taking a look at Ivy League race

Here's the look at what needs to happen for Yale to have a chance at the Ivy League title.

Obviously, Yale has to beat Princeton and Harvard.

Next week Penn needs to beat Harvard and then the Quakers have to lose to Cornell. Brown would need to lose to either Dartmouth on Saturday or Columbia on Nov. 19.

Stranger things have happened but I don't see Brown losing another game nor can I see Penn falling to Cornell. If Penn can beat Harvard, at least there will be a little drama heading into The Game. If Harvard wins on Saturday, the Crimson will clinch at least a share of the Ivy League title.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Mistakes prove costly in Yale's loss to Brown

As stunning as it was to believe, had a Yale player recovered the ball on Brown's final offensive play, the Bulldogs may have been able to walk out of the Yale Bowl with an Ivy League championship still within their grasps.

In a mistake-prone game, Brown quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero fumbled the ball when all the Bears needed to do was take a knee and let the final seconds tick off the clock. After a wild scramble, it was ruled that Brown maintained possession and as a result, earned a 34-28 victory.

Capitalizing on three Patrick Witt interceptions and a key fumble by punt returner Gio Christodoulou, the Bears had a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs mounted a frantic comeback.

Patrick Witt, who passed for two scores and ran for two more, had a 2-yard touchdown run and an 18-yard TD pass to Mordecai Cargill to pull within 34-28 with 1:28 to play. That set the stage for the final fumble in the game. Yale senior defensive tackle Reed Spiller came out of the pile with the ball but the officials ruled that Brown had already been awarded possession.

"I know we had our hands on it, they had their hands on it," Williams said. "The officials said that he ruled simultaneous possession to them, that is what he told me on the sideline."

The fact of the matter is that the Bulldogs were fortunate to even be within six points at game's end. Yale had enough miscues to last a season and those mistakes mean the Bulldogs would need all sorts of help to be able to go into the season-ending Harvard game in position to earn a share of the Ivy League title.

"We were playing until the last second, we had guys grabbing trying to get the ball but the fact of the matter is that we didn't play well enough to win in a game of that magnitude," Williams said. "We turned the ball over too many times, we didn't take advantage of good field position to score and we gave up a couple of easy touchdowns defensively. We had a punt blocked for no reason at all. If you do things in a game of this magnitude against a good team like Brown, you are going to lose the game. We had plenty of opportunities to have a good day and we didn't do it.

"It starts with me. I have to figure out the right buttons ti push with my football team so that we can execute with poise in a game of this magnitude. This is the point in the season with a team that has been around for at least three years with our staff that we felt confident that we would be able to finish these types of games and to have those things pop up in the biggest game of the year is a head scratcher to me."

Speaking of head scratchers, I asked Williams about the curious play call of having Deon Randall run the ball out of the Wildcat formation with Yale having a 2nd and 3 on the Brown 5. Randall was thrown for an eight-yard loss and Philippe Panico missed a 30-yard field goal. I know Yale was struggling to run the ball at that point but I'd take my chances with a powerful back like Cargill getting a couple of cracks into the 5 rather than the Wildcat.
"That is a play that we practiced all week in that situation and we didn't execute the blocking of it," Williams said. "There was a particular block that needed to be made. It wasn't and that caused us to move backwards. It came down to execution, we liked the play, we knew what we were going to get from it. When you aren't able to execute plays, it doesn't really matter what you call."

It also didn't help that Yale gave up the longest run in Brown football history as Mark Kachmar had 95 of his 192 rushing yards on the Bears' third offensive play. The Bulldogs had a hard time defending both the run and pass in the first half. Brown helped Yale come back by going a bit conservative in its offensive play calling in the second half.
"You kind of knew they had it in them with the kind of skill that they had to come back but when you are up by three touchdowns, it is a matter of getting first downs and we blew it down there," Brown coach Phil Estes said of Yale's late offensive barrage.

"We were up 20 points and we are going to be OK. We have to get some first downs and we just couldn't get the first downs. The problem is you just start watching the clock. You don't want to throw. They have great skill at receiver, great skill at running back, defensively they play some soft coverages but they really wrap up, they hit hard and tackle hard."

Yale senior running back Alex Thomas missed his second straight game with a knee injury while Chris Smith appeared to suffer an ankle injury in the second half. If there was a positive for Yale, it is the continued emergence of freshman defensive end E.J. Conway who had another strong game.

Witt finished with 370 yards and is now just 69 yards shy of Alvin Cowan's Yale career record. Speaking of Witt, a film crew from NBC Nightly News was on campus yesterday following Witt around and also at today's game. They are planning to run a segment on Monday's show about Witt's potential conflict with his final Rhodes Scholarship interview. The interview was set for the morning of Nov. 19 in Atlanta and if it is not shifted to the previous day, Witt would have to choose between playing in The Game and going to interview for the most prestigious scholarship in this country.

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Alex Thomas not in pads

Looks like Yale is going to err on the side of caution with senior running back Alex Thomas. Thomas, who missed last week's game against Columbia with a knee injury, practiced on a limited basis during the week but he came out in sweatpants, without shoulder pads and without a helmet so I am taking that as a pretty good indication that he will be held out for another week.

Receiver Chris Smith is out during pre-game drills so he is back for the Bulldogs.

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Gavin to miss rest of the season

There has been mostly good news coming out of the Yale football camp this week in terms of injuries as offensive tackle Roy Collins, receiver Chris Smith and running back Alex Thomas returned to practice. But the news was not all positive. Starting left tackle Wes Gavin will need surgery on his injured ankle and will miss the rest of the season.

"The ankle is going to require some surgery and he is not going to be able to make it back," Williams said. "They want to do it ASAP so pretty soon so it is just a matter of clearing out his schedule and getting it done."

Freshman Ben Carbery has played well in Gavin's absence so he will become the starter at left tackle for the rest of the season.

Of the previously-mentioned trio, Collins has been in there the most at practice this week although all three should be able to play against Brown on Saturday.

"Smith is good to go, Thomas is good to go although he is still gimpy but he practiced a little bit today and Roy Collins is good to go," Williams said.

Collins should move back into his starting right tackle spot. While it's no guarantee that Smith and Thomas will start, look for them in the game. That won't make the Brown coaches happy since Smith and Thomas played starring roles in Yale's 27-24 win over Brown last year. Smith returned kickoffs 79 and 83 yards for touchdowns in a span of 2:23 in the second quarter and also caught a team-high six passes. Thomas ran for 121 yards including a 27-yard TD.
One change in the starting lineup I have neglected to mention is that Brian Leffler has moved ahead of Wes Moyer at linebacker.
"We gave him an opportunity to start (against Columbia), he played well last week against Columbia so he is going to get that start this week against Brown. "He is stouter and against a team like Brown that really likes to establish the run game, he is a better match for what they do. With the competition that he was have at that position, we feel like he has played better than Wes at this point so we gave him an opportunity last week and he held serve so he gets the nod again this week. We will still play multiple guys but he will be the first guy out."

When Williams addressed the team after Thursday's practice, he told the team he thought it was a good week of practice. He also emphasized that the Bears are in the same situation as Yale in terms of being able to win the Ivy League title by winning out. That is not entirely accurate. Yale would earn at least a share of the title by winning its last three games since the Bulldogs would have to beat first-place Harvard (the only Ivy League team unbeaten in conference play). Brown would need to win and have Harvard lose a game in order to claim a portion of the title. Still, Saturday's game has the feel of an elimination game. It certainly makes it easy to get motivated for the early-morning practices at this time of the year.
"I think it changes the energy level," Williams said. "I think our guys come out with energy anyway but certainly when you have something to play for and you are back in the hunt, it makes it more enjoyable with a goal in mind. You have something you can touch out there. We were in the same situation last year playing Brown at Brown, we have some experience from last year. I like playing at home this year. We haven't been at home in a long time so this will be great, it should be a great game."

Practice ended on Thursday will Williams having senior defensive end Austin Pulsipher address the team. Pulsipher is the only Yale player to have an Ivy League championship ring. He was a reserve on the 2006 Yale team before taking a two-year Mormon mission.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Another honor for Cargill; Heroes Day update

Yale junior running back Mordecai Cargill added the Golden Helmet to his weekly haul of individual awards.

Cargill ran 42 times for a career-high 230 yards in Yale's 16-13 win over Columbia on Saturday. It was the fourth highest single-game total in Yale history and second most against an Ivy League opponent.

Cargill is the first Yale player to earn the New England Football Writers’ Gridiron Club of Greater Boston Gold Helmet Award this year.

Also, there has been an impressive response for Yale's Heroes Day event as more than 200 military members including the following groups:

U.S. Navy, Submarine Base Group

National Guard
US Army
Yale Veterans Council
Yale Veterans Association (an alumni veterans group)
Yale Police
US Coast Guard

Yale is inviting military veterans, active service members, police officers, and firefighters along with their families to Saturday's home game against Brown.

Tickets as well as pre-game food and drinks will be handed out at the Heroes Tailgate located in the Hospitality Village. For more information contact Jennifer O’Neil at (203) 432-1414 or


Tough decision could be coming for Patrick WItt

Yale senior quarterback Patrick Witt received the call he had been hoping for on Monday when he got word that he made it through the second level of consideration and was a Rhodes Scholarship finalist. However, his exhilaration did not last long. Witt knew when he applied for the Rhodes that the final interview is scheduled for the weekend of the Yale/Harvard game. Now there is a chance that he will have to pick between going to the interview in Atlanta (since that is the district he applied in) or playing in his final game at Yale.

"I had thought about it even before applying. I was aware when the interview weekend was," Witt said. "I am not exactly sure how this works. I met with all the people at Yale who can reach out and potential work out a solution to this."

Back in 2008 Yale cornerback Casey Gerald was faced with the same dilemma. Fortunately, with some assistance from the academic community at Yale, cooled heads prevailed and Rhodes committee allowed Gerald to conduct his interview on Friday. Gerald flew in for the Yale/Harvard game the following day.

The folks at Yale who have aided Witt in his pursuit of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship have already started the process of trying to allow Witt to interview for the Rhodes and still be able to play in The Game.
"I believe all the Rhodes committees from each region have a bit of autonomy with decisions such as this so it is really up to them," Witt said. "I am hopeful that something will get worked out but there is really no way to know."

I asked him point blank if he had to choose, which one would be choose.

"The commitment I made to this team I believe would come first and I would want to honor that," Witt said. "It wouldn't feel right letting them down for not being there for the Harvard/Yale game."

Here's the story I wrote on the subject for today's Register


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Collins, Smith and Thomas back at practice

It's looking like Yale's offense is getting closer to being at full strength.

Offensive tackle Roy Collins, receiver Chris Smith and running back Alex Thomas took part in Tuesday's practice in varying degrees. All three players were injured in the loss to Penn. They were all held out of practice last week and missed Saturday's game against Columbia.

Collins, who injured his ankle, saw the most action on Tuesday. In the time I was there, he saw most of the time at right tackle with the starters. Thomas, who suffered a knee injury against the Quakers, was in the backfield for a handful of snaps. Smith, who has missed two games with a tender hamstring, did not take part in an team drills but did some individual workouts.

"(Thomas) is still a little tender but he got a few reps in today," Yale coach Tom Williams said. "Roy was back and pretty close to full speed and Chris was back. He didn't go through everything but he did go through individual (drills) and tomorrow we are going to try to get him some team reps and just kind of slowly ramp him up. I think we are getting closer to where we need to be health wise. They should be available for Saturday. Obviously the next couple of days will be important for Chris and Alex to get full-speed reps but they are on their way. The plan today is try to ease them into it and tomorrow and Thursday get them ready for game speed."

Starting left tackle Wes Gavin is still unable to practice because of an ankle injury and seems unlikely to be back for Saturday's game against Brown.

I didn't get a complete sense of the quality of the hold on Philippe Panico's 38-yard field goal under white-out conditions on Saturday until I replayed the tape of the game.

The snap on the kick was low and slightly wide but sophomore Jake Semones calmly snared the snap and was able to get it down in time for Panico to make the kick for the first points in Yale's 16-13 win.

"I couldn't see it on the field because his back was to me and also because of the snow," Williams said.  "That ball was about this low off the ground (holding his hands about an inch or two apart) and to the side. He picked it and got it back in place with no problem at all. That is why he is so valuable.

"His holds have been like that all year and Philippe has great confidence in him. That is what made a difference in the kick, the fact that Philippe did not have to break stride at all. It was the difference in the game. I thought three points might be enough to win it and it ended up being the difference. It was a great hold, unbelievable but he has been like that all year. I think I was watching the TV copy and the guys said that the holder never gets any attention unless he drops the ball. That has been great because Jake has been good the whole year."

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