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Crucial decisions: Explaining the UAAP Season 83 cancelation

After an abrupt ending to Season 82 early last year, many in the athletic community were hopeful to see rejuvenated athletes for a Season 83 in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, after a series of planning sessions that explored different options, it was announced last December that the UAAP officially cancelled its 83rd season. Now, all eyes are on De La Salle University as the current UAAP host. 

It has undoubtedly been an immense challenge for DLSU to take on the responsibility as hosts of the UAAP amid the health crisis. Br. Raymundo Suplido FSC, DLSU President and current chairman of the league’s board of trustees, has shared the journey it took to make difficult yet timely decisions and where they ultimately plan on going from here. 

Deliberating and deciding

Initially, the board of managing directors and the board of trustees had decided that Season 83 was going to be a shortened season. Typical UAAP traditions such as opening ceremonies were also being taken into account, but through it all, the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases made these programs impractical. Suplido said that in their meeting last October 2020, “They (the board of trustees) mentioned that there is the one possibility if certain protocols are followed, we might be able to have at least two sports, and they were identifying the two sports as men’s basketball and/or women’s volleyball because those are the two most popular of the sports.”

The board looked into the popularity of the sports they could have opened during the season. Suplido points out, “If we were going to take the initiative on going through with UAAP sports, then it would have to be the one [that] in a way would appeal to the majority…Even the broadcasting preferences of our [broadcasting] partner, their preferences would of course be with the more popular ones because that entails their own investment and so on.”

Given the fact that the board had a February 1 deadline for a comprehensive and thorough plan to fulfill their goal, they were discussing all throughout October to December the essential matters. If Season 83 was going to be held in a bubble, several concerns had to be sorted out, such as the need for financial support for food, transportation, and accommodations, along with the full consent of participation from the athletes, parents, coaches.

While Cignal TV was willing to sponsor the cost of the bubble, there were a plethora of other considerations, such as the possible restrictions and protocols that would have been needed to be imposed on the people sequestered in the bubble with the concern of some possibly testing positive for COVID-19. As such, the health and safety of everyone—should Season 83 have happened—was always going to be the biggest question. 

Another consideration that they raised was how the bubble would affect the athletes’ studies. If the season had a compressed playing schedule, the players may not have had time to focus on their academics while devoting themselves to their respective sports at the same time.

Coming to the decision

But through it all, the board decided to cancel Season 83 entirely, focusing on potentially having a fully reinforced Season 84. Although they were able to formulate certain COVID-19 protocols, the concern would be receiving the approval from the Commision on Higher Education and the Inter-Agency Task Force. Along with participation requirements such as having complete lineups and having personnel from each school, another consideration was that at least six teams had to fully consent to engage in the season—anything less would result in a cancelation.

As the cancelation of Season 83 was an association-wide matter, Suplido notes that the board of managing directors was always in contact with varsity coaches for consultation. He adds that he received feedback from different sectors who agreed to fully support whatever the schools decided on.

Looking ahead

Suplido acknowledges the challenges that have come with skipping the 83rd season altogether, especially for the athletes. Given that players and coaches currently have no opportunities for face-to-face contact, training sessions have been done remotely thus far.

However, Suplido still remains optimistic in DLSU’s athletes in their ability to adapt with the times. He sees the benefits that athletes may be able to gain from the situation, saying it affords them a lot of time to focus on their studies, given that under normal circumstances, student athletes are known to constantly be juggling their studies with their sports. Suplido believes the athletes may be able to maximize the additional free time they have now. He shares, “I think part of being an athlete is to respond to the challenge.”

Now, the community looks toward Season 84, with DLSU still set to be the host. Although there are no concrete plans as of late, Suplido shares that they are hoping that the season may begin sometime in the third quarter of the year; however, it all depends upon the vaccine distribution, and how the country will respond to the pandemic in the coming months.

As of now, they are currently still in the planning stages: Suplido explains that there are many factors to take into consideration. However, he still remains hopeful that the community may see a Season 84 this year. He remarks, “We cross our fingers and see what can be done.”

By Annika Cañiza

By Koby del Rosario

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