What was once a promising program is now left to rebuild as the UST Growling Tigers deal with the departure of several key personnel no thanks to their controversial bubble training.
Here is the timeline of events that changed the Tigers' future:
The UST saga unfolded when former Tigers ace CJ Cansino bared he was kicked off the team on August 20.
His exit raised several questions, especially since the Tigers were expected to contend for the championship in the following UAAP season after they reached the finals last year.
Cansino offered cryptic remarks regarding his departure, saying if he had it his way, he would not have left the Tigers' lair.
Immediately after breaking his silence, Cansino found a new home in Diliman as the UP Fighting Maroons acquired his services.
Cansino will serve a one-year residency before suiting up for the Fighting Maroons in Season 84. (READ: How UP recruited CJ Cansino to become a Fighting Maroon)
As news of Cansino leaving UST broke, photos and videos of the Tigers' bubble training in Capuy, Sorsogon – where head coach Aldin Ayo hails – surfaced on social media.
The training became a safety concern owing to the fact that it violated community quarantine rules.
At the time, even professional sports leagues like the PBA and PFL, which already received approval from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to practice again, still had not pushed through with their training.
Cansino provided intriguing details of the Tigers' bubble by leaking on Twitter his group chat on August 26 with his former UST teammates, which showed the players complaining to parents about their condition in Sorsogon.
Ira Bataller, Brent Paraiso, Rhenz Abando, and Soulemane Chabi Yo, to name a few, grumbled about the oily and unhealthy food served, homesickness, and stress.
The IATF – just two days after Cansino's revelation – launched a probe on the Sorsogon bubble with the concerted effort of the UAAP, Department of Health, Philippine Sports Commission, and Games and Amusements Board.
UST also started its own investigation on the bubble.
As UST faced possible sanctions, multiple players bid the team goodbye within two weeks.
The only few notable players from the Tigers' Season 82 finals crew who remained with the team are Chabi Yo, Mark Nonoy, Sherwin Concepcion, Deo Cuajao, and Dave Ando.
Abando, Paraiso, and Bataller eventually completed their transfer to the reigning NCAA champions Letran Knights, while Asuncion is reportedly headed to the Mapua Cardinals.
"I deeply apologize to all those who have been adversely affected by our activity and unnecessarily exposed to much condemnation, especially the University," Ayo said in a statement on September 4.
UST accepted the resignation on September 5, including that of Ayo deputies McJour Luib and Jinino Manansala.
Despite falling short in ending the Tigers' title drought, Ayo ended his two-season stay in España still rather fruitful. (READ: Master of Mayhem: How Aldin Ayo's coaching career unraveled)
From a cellar-dwelling team, the Tigers transformed to a title contender in Season 82 with Ayo calling the shots.
The Tigers bucked off a twice-to-beat disadvantage against the UP Fighting Maroons in the Final Four to reach the UAAP Finals, where they fell prey to the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
Other details of the bubble emerged as The Varsitarian, the official student publication of UST, reported that the Tigers did more than just basketball training in Sorsogon.
The September 7 report revealed the Tigers played in 3-on-3 scrimmages and were made to attend a farming seminar and visit a piggery.
On the same day, CHED confirmed the existence of the bubble and ordered UST – along with the National University – to explain why they should not be sanctioned for their violation of the law.
The UAAP, in a statement released on September 9, said the punishment "is based on the UST report that showed Ayo endangering the health and well-being of the student athletes."
Ayo, after 4 seasons in the UAAP that yielded one title and two finals appearances, will have to find work elsewhere, whether back in the NCAA or in other basketball leagues. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.