Pandemic forces PH schools to slash varsity budget
MANILA, Philippines – Varsity sports absorbed a major blow amid the pandemic, with several Philippine school officials admitting they’re forced to cut the budget for sports programs.
“Unfortunately, this is the reality of things. Whether we admit it or not, it became very expensive for some schools to maintain their sports program,” said Hercules Callanta, athletics director of the Lyceum of the Philippines University.
Lyceum is a member of the NCAA, the country’s oldest collegiate league which plans to host only 4 sporting events in Season 96 next year as schools reel from financial losses.
Letran and Perpetual Help, also NCAA members, have reportedly downsized the operation of their varsity programs.
“[COVID-19] is an eye-opener as to how expensive collegiate sports has become,” said Callanta in a recent online forum hosted by Sports Management Council of the Philippines, Inc.
Members of different collegiate leagues joined the forum, sharing how monetary issues caused by the pandemic affected many colleges and universities in the country.
Mario Villanueva of Bicol Universities and Colleges Athletics League (BUCAL) revealed that half of the participating schools in the league decided not to continue their sports program, while others reduced the benefits of the athletes.
Technological Institute of the Philippines was also left with no choice but to disband some its teams.
But aside from the athletes, game officials and coaches were also affected by the pandemic.
Otie Camangian, managing director of the Philippine Volleyball Federation, said some referees are calling out for help and support.
Noli Ayo, the athletics director of Ateneo de Davao University, shared that his school had to dismiss coaches.
“One of the most painful decision that I did as an athletics director was, in a Zoom forum, I informed 49 of our coaches that we cannot rehire them this year,” Ayo said.
Callanta said the pandemic forced many schools to reassess their sports programs.
“Our athletes have been promised a lot of things beyond what a student-athlete should receive,” he said. “There are instances that what we see is already more of a salary than an allowance.”
School officials, though, emphasized the importance of a support system for athletes and coaches, with some noting the importance of regularly checking the student-athletes’ physical and mental wellness.
Ayo encouraged everyone to find “their significance and relevance online” and to create structures online that will support the mental need of athletes and coaches.
“Kung matatapos ang pandemic na hindi ka natuto, nawalan ka ng trabaho, na hindi ka nakaadjust, you’ll end up losing it,” said Ayo.
(If this pandemic ends and you lost your job, and you didn’t learn anything or managed to adjust, you’ll end up losing it.)
“If we reach 2021 and we’re still here, I’m sure we’re gonna work together and find new ways to do things.”
While some international events have slowly started to resume, the immediate return of local sports looks bleak. (READ: PSC: No coronavirus vaccine, no PH sports events)
“[Resumption of the league] is a question of how you feel about spending a lot of money for the engineering that you’ll need to safeguard everyone’s health,” Callanta said.
“Play is different from competitions. I feel that competitions will only take place, maybe I’m conservative, when the vaccine is already here, unless we’re willing to quarantine everyone.” – Rappler.com