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    Amid virus uncertainty, UAAP faces season behind closed doors

    Jun 17, 2020

    THE UAAP is preparing for a restart next year, but don't expect things to go back to how they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

    League officials are discussing the possibility of holding the games in Season 83 behind closed doors as it adapts to the "new normal."

    "I think as far as it's being thrown up, it's no audience. Closed door, as far as planning goes," said outgoing UAAP president Em Fernandez of Ateneo on Tuesday in the online Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum.

    The collegiate league expects the resumption of athletic competitions in the first quarter of next year.

    Fans have been a big component of the UAAP, with venues packed to the rafters for marquee basketball and volleyball matchups, as well as the cheerdance competitions.

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    Championship matches in big venues like Smart Araneta Coliseum and Mall of Asia Arena have been absolute draws, with tickets routinely selling out.

    The UAAP, however, has implemented the closed door system last season, with the final games of the juniors basketball competitions being contested in front of zero audiences even before the league ultimately pulled the plug on Season 82.

    As for the possibility of holding the competitions in a "bubble city" like the NBA plans, Atty. Rebo Saguisag, UAAP executive director, shut down those talks.

    "I cannot speak for the Board yet, pero ito malabo if you copy the NBA model sa bubble city," he said, clarifying that the idea has not even been considered by the Board of Managing Directors (BMD).

    "UAAP is an inter-collegiate league. Yung mga estudyante, i-ho-hotel mo for two months, four months even at babayaran namin lahat? And then everyday, swab testing and rapid testing? So baka hindi viable. Imagine these students being housed in whatever facility, and I don't even know if we have that facility, or hotels around that facility, nor do we have the expenses. Parang hindi sustainable and not viable."

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    Saguisag doubled down on his point that at the end of the day, the UAAP puts premium on the athletes' education over the athletic competitions.

    "It's a stretch already. Nawawala na yung pagka-student-athlete at baka hindi na makapag-aral ang mga yan. No one is supposed to go out of that bubble city in two to three months. Parang it might not be consistent on the concept of athletics being part of the education program dahil parang yun na ang magiging buhay nila. Mahirap naman yata yun," he said.

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    The league said it is exploring every way possible to present the games the best it can when given the green light by the government.

    "All these plans, we have to wait for the next host to lead. They will take a lead with the help of the seven other universities," said Fernandez, with Ateneo set to turnover the hosting duties to La Salle.

    "That's why it will be a challenging opportunity for everyone."

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