Is NCAA serious?

SPORTING CHANCEJoaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) – December 29, 2020 – 12:00am

There is talk that the NCAA intends to push through with its 96th season on a limited scale in March next year. PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said recently NCAA officials reached out if they could confer with him to learn from the lessons of the Clark bubble. Is the NCAA out to beat the UAAP, which has postponed its 83rd season to September, to the draw by rolling out basketball, volleyball, swimming, athletics and cheerleading competitions six months ahead? Is the NCAA feeding false hopes that it can realistically launch the season in March when up to this day, the IATF has not allowed even individual training in the gym preparatory to body contact drills for student-athletes?

The word is the NCAA is planning to set up a semi-bubble system which resembles the PBA’s closed-circuit regimen from home-to-gym-to-home imposed during the preseason training period. The NCAA’s concept is to cloister student-athletes in school quarters, transport them to the playing venues and back for about six weeks. The playing venues under consideration are either Lyceum or Mapua in Intramuros and Arellano or San Beda in Mendiola. It is presumed that the student-athletes will train only in their school premises. There may be access to practicing in the playing venues but this will likely be limited.

In contrast, the UAAP Board of Trustees has ruled out a premature start of the leagues 83rd season with the pandemic still a threat. Besides, the IATF has not given its go-signal for CHED to allow the resumption of varsity sports. It’s been over a month that CHED submitted guidelines for restricted individual training in the gym with inputs from PSC and DOH. The guidelines stipulate no intra-zonal movement from point of origin to the same LGU for student-athletes who are below 20. So if a basketball team, for instance, includes players who are below 20, they’re not allowed to participate in individual training under the intra-zonal condition.

If the IATF has not even acted on the proposal for individual training in the gym for student-athletes, what more body contact drills, scrimmages and actual games? So you wonder why is the NCAA in a hurry to restart its season? Is there pressure from an external source? Shouldnt the NCAA prioritize academics instead of sports during this crisis? The proposed CHED guidelines will require a tidy sum from schools to re-engineer their facilities for the purpose of conforming to IATF protocols. The guidelines will also require the organization of an internal monitoring team. Under the circumstances, shouldnt schools be more focused on trying to maximize faculty for academic work?

Even assuming the IATF finally approves the restart of competition, will parents agree to their children quartered in a closed-circuit system for at least six weeks with the risk of COVID-19 contamination still in the air? The PBA succeeded in creating a secure Clark bubble where movement was restricted, resulting in zero positives in six testing cycles. But there were reports of positive cases during the closed-circuit preseason training period. Can the NCAA confidently assure parents that their children will be safe in a semi-bubble just so the season can restart? The UAAP obviously reads the pandemic situation differently from the NCAA.

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