A PULLOUT of all three San Miguel Corp. teams from the PBA will be a "no-win situation" both for the pro league and the conglomerate, said grand slam coach Tommy Manotoc.
"I think at the end of the day, they (SMC and PBA) need each other," Manotoc told Spin.ph, two days after the Commissioner's Office's decision to hit Petron import Renaldo Balkman with a lifetime ban spawned a crisis that now threatens to tear the pro league apart.
Responding to the Balkman drama which the company said had tainted its reputation, SMC has announced that it is "re-evaluating" its participation in the pro league, raising fears that it is mulling a pullout of the three teams under its umbrella - San Mig Coffee, Barangay Ginebra, and Petron.
Manotoc said a blanket pullout of the three popular teams would leave a "big hole" in the pro league that will be hard to fill, although he was also the first to say that the simmering controversy should not come to that.
"I think it works both ways," he said. "The PBA needs the three San Miguel teams but San Miguel needs the PBA too. So when that (pullout) happens, I think they will both lose."
Manotoc, of course, knows whereof he speaks.
The multi-titled golfer was the deputy commissioner in charge of the running of the PBA's affairs back in 1985 - the first season that Asia's first pro league had to endure the absence of Crispa, which disbanded the year before, and Toyota, which left the league two years earlier.
Surprisingly, the league, down to six franchises and moving from the Araneta Coliseum to the smaller ULTRA (now Philsports arena), enjoyed a banner year with gate receipts of P10.9 million - beating the previous record of P8.3M during Crispa's grand slam campaign under Manotoc in 1983.
The following year in the post-Edsa Revolution days, the pro league also survived the leave of absence of San Miguel and posted a new high of P13.5M gross.
Still, Manotoc feels the pullout of San Miguel would be a bigger hit to the league than Crispa and Toyota's departure, only because it will be harder to find companies that can take the place of SMC with the same stature and influence as the Ramon S. Ang-led conglomerate.
"When Crispa and Toyota left, I was able to convince Shell to come in, and later Alaska. These are big companies. I had breakfast with (former Shell chairman) Cesar Buenaventura at Manila Golf (Club) and I asked him how much the company spent for advertising and TV commercials," Manotoc said.
"I told him you can spend as much for a PBA team and yet you'll have wider exposure, at soft sell pa," he added. "You're not just buying spots on TV, you're on TV."
Manotoc continued: "But if you take away San Miguel from the PBA now, who can take its place with the equivalent influence and impact? Sino ang puwedeng pumalit sa kanilang tatlong teams? I don't see anyone there right now."
The PBA may eventually lure other companies to come in, Manotoc said, but it will take a long time to build teams with the same following as Ginebra, Petron and San Mig.
"These are three of the most popular teams in the league, at sila rin halos ang pumupuno sa Araneta (Coliseum)," he said. "And it will take time to build a fan base like that."