Founded in 1938, the UAAP has kicked off its 80th season, serving as an avenue for students to compete and showcase their skills in sports. Comparing the very first season to what the league is now, it is evident that much has changed since then. As the league continues to grow, its rules also reshape along with it, serving the needs of not just the universities, but of the student-athletes as well.
Student-athletes competing in the seniors division may only suit up and play for their institutions if they are bona-fide college students of their university. In terms of age, one should not be more than 25 years by the end of a single season. This rule was imposed a season ago, with the previous edition allowing students to play up until they are 26 years of age.
“Applicable lang siya sa old students, meaning yung nandito na before binago yung rule. Once maubos yun [old students], the existing rule would be the not [more than] 25,” says Office of Sports Development (OSD) Director Emmanuel Calanog. Since this rule was imposed only a season ago, students who took part in the UAAP prior to the new rule are not covered.
The maximum playing years remains the same at only five years. However, it should be noted that athletes who have not made it to the final roster before the season starts will not have a year counted against them.
This commonly happens when athletes succumb to long-term injuries during the preseason. Kib Montalbo of the Green Archers and Desiree Cheng of the Lady Spikers have skipped a full season during their respective careers with DLSU after suffering from torn anterior cruciate ligaments. As they were left off the lineup, the pair did not lose a playing year.
Rules on foreign players
As for foreign student-athletes wishing to play in the UAAP, the two-year residency requirement remains the same. An exception to that rule however, is if the foreign player attends high school in the Philippines. “If he studied HS here for one year, he only has to do one year of residency. If he studied for two years, he could play already in college,” Calanog explains.
Furthermore, there is a ratio of one foreign player for every 10 Filipino athletes in the roster. However, the team can only field one foreigner at a time. In basketball, wherein a maximum of 16 players are allowed on the roster, each team can only accommodate one foreign player. In contrast to football, where each team may have as many as 20 players, two foreign players may be listed to satisfy the 1:10 ratio. However, each participating team can still only field one foreign player at a time.
The rules on foreign players have been a hot take, not just in the UAAP, but in other leagues in the country as well. In the UAAP, presidents of the member universities have been contemplating on excluding foreign students altogether. However, the Board of Trustees at the time recommended that the move be studied thoroughly to determine if it would really benefit the league. Since there has been no formal consensus, and to satisfy majority of the parties for the meantime, this stricter rule on foreign players was put into play.
Extending their stay
The UAAP allows student-athletes to play a maximum of five years in their respective sport. Given that most college degrees in the country take four years to finish, students commonly spread their academic units to extend their stay in the university. This is even more challenging in the case of La Salle since most degree programs only take three years to complete given the trimestral system. “So what we did as a policy of the office [OSD], we normally suggest or limit their enrollment to the minimum required by the UAAP, which is 12 units,” says Calanog.
The ploy has had its benefits for both the student-athletes of La Salle and the OSD. First, the athletes will be able to extend their playing years up to five if they wish to. Secondly, they are able to ease their academic workload. Student-athletes usually train for three hours a day, which is an equivalent of two subjects a day in La Salle. Taking less units helps them balance their academics and training. And as for the third reason, the OSD’s budget for scholarships are in fixed values and not in percentages. Because of this, the office can efficiently use its budget since scholarships are paid on the basis of units.
Senior high school dilemma
Both the juniors and seniors divisions have implemented stricter rules on eligibility over the years as a result of past controversies. For the juniors division, players have a total of six playing years from Grade 7 until Grade 12, with athletes who are beyond 19 years of age deemed ineligible. This poses a problem in the case of the DLSU-Manila campus wherein there are existing senior high school students who are at limbo.
They cannot play for the seniors division since UAAP rules state that high school students are not allowed to play at the collegiate level. They are also not allowed to play in the juniors division since De La Salle Zobel is the official juniors affiliate of DLSU.
Calanog clarifies and says, “I guess it will have to come from a decision from the Board Of Trustees, to change who will represent DLSU, because from the time of our acceptance, it is stated there that De La Salle Zobel was the junior team.”
Last 2004, a controversial issue erupted against La Salle after two of its players in the Green Archers were labeled ineligible for submitting fabricated documents. The Lasallians were crowned champions of UAAP Season 67 after defeating the FEU Tamaraws in three games and would eventually claim the runner-up trophy the following season.
However, the Green-and-White had to suffer the consequences when the PEP (Philippine Educational Placement) test of Mark Benitez and Timoteo Gatchalian III were found spurious. DLSU voluntarily surrendered the information after finding out that the test results were not authentic. The PEP test was used by DepEd (Department of Education) in retrieving out-of-school youth, to validate their knowledge and skills in the formal school system if they desire. La Salle had to return a runner-up trophy and was forced to cede the title to FEU. The league also suspended La Salle from participating in all events of the 2006 season as a penalty for fielding ineligible players.
In turn, the UAAP made a rule requiring PEP test takers to have one year of residency in order to double check the validity of the test. However, with the dawn of the K-12 implementation within the country, the rule was disregarded.
Moreover, La Salle raised the bar of sportsmanship and fair play after the string of unfortunate events. “DLSU became very strict. Remember during that time from 2006 up to 2009, we were lagging behind because of what happened? The admissions office became very strict in terms of applications even for athletes,” Calanog concludes.
With the continuous efficiency of the UAAP in developing sportsmanship and camaraderie among the different universities, stricter rules were implemented to ensure that the standards of the league are met. Moreover, the stringent regulations also apply to avoid the recurrence of past controversies, to certify the eligibility of athletes, and to promote genuine competition for future years to come.