Collegiate sports are back in the Philippines after more than two years of inactivity.
Due to the long layoff, and the pandemic still prevailing, a lot of changes had to be made for amateur competitions to even be allowed by concerned government agencies to push through.
By design due to the pandemic’s unpredictability, not a lot of things are set in stone, even for the UAAP Season 84, which kicks off this March 26. However, here is what fans should know so far.
Men’s basketball will be the testing ground for all future tournaments held by the league this year. Under a bubble setup, the tournament will run for a month and a half from March 26 to ideally the second week of May.
From there, the women’s volleyball tournament will kick off tentatively at the end of May, which will run concurrently with other sports like beach volleyball, men’s 3×3 basketball, poomsae, and chess, depending on the health situation by then.
Cheerdancing will also make a return, but despite circulating posts showing the order of performances, the date and venue have yet to be determined, per the league.
No fans… for now
Among the fans’ numerous questions, the most prevalent is if they will be allowed to watch live games once again, especially amid the government’s loosening restrictions in Metro Manila.
The answer is no – not yet, at least. Just to get a feel of the weekly operations again after two years, the UAAP will keep their bubbles sealed away from fans and even onsite media coverage apart from the broadcast teams of Cignal, its new TV partner.
Not even the iconic drummers and cheering squads will be allowed inside the bubble.
However, there is optimism from the league that they may open doors to fans and everyone else as early as the second round of the men’s basketball tournament, which is roughly just two weeks away from season start.
The UAAP has eyed multiple venues for both closed-door and fan-attended games, namely the Mall of Asia Arena, where the March 26 kickoff will happen, the Araneta Coliseum, and the FilOil Flying V Centre, which is currently still a vaccination center.
At least for basketball, the UAAP has laid out its tournament format for the season, which may be adopted by succeeding sports like women’s volleyball.
There will only be three game days a week: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, all following a quadruple-header format, meaning all eight member universities will see action per day.
Game days will feature almost half a day of pure action. Tip-off times are slated at 10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm, and 7 pm.
The initial tournament will still follow a double round-robin format, which means 14 elimination round games per team, then the Final Four, and the finals.
The league will also likely still follow a stepladder format in the case of a team going undefeated in the eliminations like the Season 82 Ateneo Blue Eagles men’s basketball team, which earned an outright finals berth after a 14-0 elims run.
Although COVID-19 is being contained thanks to rampant vaccination and enduring health protocols, the virus is obviously still a concern for the UAAP, but not as severely as one may think.
Even in the event of a positive case popping up within a team in the bubble, play will actually continue as long as teams satisfy the minimum number of players required for a game.
Per UAAP president Emmanuel “Nonong” Calanog, the league has created a COVID reserve team of four players per school in addition to the 16-man roster.
Unlike usual reserves, these players may only be activated in the event that a player does go down with COVID, and not any other ailment nor injury.
In a clarification to a previous announcement, Calanog stated that no 27-year-olds may actually play in the under-25 league. However, 26-year-olds who will not turn 27 before the May cutoff may still play provided they are still enrolled, and have a playing year left.
This rule will be reverted back to normal by Season 85.
Speaking of the next season, the UAAP is actually planning two seasons for 2022, with Season 85 penciled in around September or October.
At least in the Final Four era, September had always been the scheduled start date of the new academic year, so it looks like the league is eyeing a return to pre-pandemic operations if the health situation permits it.
- The UAAP Season 84 opening ceremonies will be prerecorded with around an hour of content.
- The Season 84 theme is “Fully Alive, Champions for Life.”
- There will be a UAAP general champion. UST is the four-time reigning titleholder, and was awarded even after the truncated Season 82.
- There has been no word yet on future boys’ and girls’ (juniors) tournaments.
- Cignal will air live games for most tournaments, or air highlights at the very least if there is no available airtime.