MANILA, Philippines – UAAP executive director Rebo Saguisag admits the usual September opening of the UAAP becomes more unlikely by the day.
“Mukhang January nga. Yung timeframe gumalaw na (Looks like it will be in January. We had to move the timeframe),” Saguisag told Rappler.
“We’re looking at the first quarter of 2021,” added Emmanuel Fernandez, Ateneo’s athletic director and the president of UAAP Season 82.
League officials said one important thing to consider is how the universities that make up the UAAP will function amid the pandemic.
“No direction policy yet what will happen, precisely because of the uncertainty of teams in the future,” Francis Diaz, the dean of University of the Philippines’ College of Human Kinetics and UP’s board representative, said in an exclusive interview.
“One thing that people normally tend to forget, maybe unwittingly, is that our athletes are students first,” Diaz added. “That’s one hurdle that we need to get past, the opening of classes.”
“You have to be a student to be able to play in the UAAP,” said Fernandez. “This is the UAAP. So if the schools – particularly all 8 schools – are able to have a normal calendar of sort, then we can still hold the UAAP.”
A compressed season?
The UAAP usually splits its many sporting events between the two semesters of the academic calendar.
If Season 83 begins in January or the first quarter of 2021, that falls under the second semester schedule.
An idea on the table is to hold all sporting events within that schedule.
“That’s the discussion right now, because if we can do it in the SEA Games, if the Olympics can do it, why can’t we do it in the UAAP?” Fernandez said.
If indoor contact sports are permitted by then, there is the possibility that basketball, volleyball, and football playdates will alternate within the week, or take place simultaneously.
That would present all the UAAP action that alumni, students, and fans can muster, but will also present problems from the standpoint of logistics.
“One of the options,” according to Saguisag, “would be kung ano yung natitirang Season 82, medyo i-prioritize, para medyo mauna namin sila if ever man (whatever wasn’t played in Season 82, let’s prioritize those sports, so that they can kick off the season if ever).”
“Of course we would like to have the idea that as much as possible, all the events… will push through. That’s the goal,” he clarified.
The UAAP’s return will also depend on the Philippine government’s rules on the resumption of sporting events.
The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) previously announced that under general community quarantine (GCQ) – which started on June 1 for Metro Manila – outdoor sports with social distancing can be reintroduced.
However, mass sports gatherings, including tournaments and competition, remain prohibited by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF). (EXPLAINER: When can sports resume amid coronavirus pandemic?)
“If the government declares, ‘No, you cannot,’ then we won’t have the season during these times,” Diaz said.
“If and when PSC declares it is safe because of what health experts say and what the IATF says, then it’s okay, by all logical purposes, we can follow suit.”
There is the possibility that Season 83 opens only with sporting events where social distancing is somewhat present, like tennis and badminton. In this scenario, the other sports will only begin once feasible.
“Everything is on the table,” Saguisag said. “It’s always better to have a plan. Kung yun ang pwede, bakit hindi? (If that’s what’s possible, why not?)”
“Let’s be honest: basketball and volleyball and maybe cheerdance are the ones na inaabangan, kaya lang sila yung (that people really look forward to, but these are the events), well, one, has contact – talking about basketball; two, they’re all indoor; and three, there’s no social distancing in these sports; and four, there’s mass gathering because they’re spectator sports.”
Another possibility is to hold these events without fans, which is what the NBA will do for the resumption of its 2020 season, and perhaps the PBA as well.
The UAAP already held a closed-door event during Game 2 of the high school basketball finals between FEU and NU last March just before Season 82 was canceled.
“It was a change. Medyo nakakapanibago, pero nagawa (It felt different, but it’s feasible),” said Saguisag, who added that the absence of crowd noise and drums were enjoyed by basketball purists.
“We were able to pull it off, and it’s possible. It’s also in the table.”
Saguisag also emphasized that since universities are responsible for the health and safety of their student-athletes, careful planning becomes even more essential.
“Whatever the rest of the world does, mas konting higpit pa kami (we have to be a bit stricter), and that is understandable. That should be understandable,” he said.
Whatever the final plans may be, though, they will first require approval.
“As long as it’s allowed by the government, and allowed by the schools,” said Fernandez.
“Whatever the managing director comes up with with regard to the season, events, eligibility issues, etc. will involve policy,” Saguisag also noted. “And must be approved by the Board of Trustees.” – Rappler.com