NCAA rules out contact sports as Season 96 opening nears

The NCAA has formally ruled out the possibility of hosting contact sports as its Season 96 opening is all set to go on Sunday, June 13.

"I don't think for this season contact sports will be available for us," said Season 96 Management Committee (Mancom) chair Fr. Vic Calvo of host school Letran during the virtual media launch with new TV partner GMA on Friday, June 11.

"We're really squeezing what is allowed in the new normal, but the season will really be different now, and online is the safest. After having the research, very comprehensive and scholarly, it is a reasonable way of presenting Season 96. We're taking the leap of faith, but it's not blind faith.”

Instead, the league will push through with a pure non-contact sports slate, including taekwondo, virtual chess, and possibly basketball and volleyball skills challenges.

Due to the ever-changing guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), the league is anticipating on-the-fly changes regarding these “extraordinary circumstances.”

Just this Friday morning prior to the media launch, the IATF approved the reopening of gyms and resumption of indoor non-contact sports with 30% capacity, which gives the NCAA’s basketball and volleyball skills challenge plans a better chance to push through.

Regardless of the uncertainties still looming for the rest of the season, the initial game schedule has been finalized, and was partially released during the media launch, with virtual poomsae kicking off on Monday, June 14.

Contact sports workarounds like bubble sites were floated out as early as last year, but all ideas ultimately got scrapped in favor of a fully virtual, non-contact hosting.

Only certain sports talk shows and the taped season opening of the league’s new TV partner GMA were green-lighted to have on-site personnel so far.

While GMA Regional TV and Synergy first vice president Oliver Amoroso did not give further details on their opening ceremony taping to not spoil Sunday’s broadcast, he did say that the network managed “a nice segment with all 10 member schools.”

Despite continuous challenges faced by the NCAA just to get its first mid-pandemic hosting underway, league leadership pushed on to finally make Season 96 a reality for the athletes, as Fr. Calvo alluded to in his remarks.

“We were given two options: to give up or rise up. We chose the latter,” he said. “We didn't just rise up, we’ll rise up stronger. We refused to be immobilized by COVID, and we had to squeeze everything we can do.”

“It is the manifestation of our character, to showcase our grit, resilience, and creativity in this new normal,” he continued. “We refused to give up no matter how great the odds may be.” –