THE UAAP insisted it is not remiss in protecting the welfare of players as the league went on the defensive in the aftermath of a dangerous head injury suffered by University of Santo Tomas center Steve Akomo.
Akomo is currently recovering from a blood clot in his brain which he reportedly got from a collision with Adamson’s Papi Sarr late September.
Not a few fans have put the blame on the high level of physicality this season for Akomo’s injury, saying the league should do a better job of keeping a lid on some ‘extra-curricular’ movements of the players.
This mix tape which surfaced online compiled what a fan were dirty plays, most of them uncalled by the referees.
Sought for comment, UAAP commissioner Junel Baculi said that he has always kept a watchful eye on what transpires on the court and assures that actions are always being taken to address those issues.
Appropriate penalties and warnings have also been handed out by the league, added the first-year commissioner.
“Problem is the players now are very strong, very agile, very athletic and they’re young. Talagang sometimes, (there's) inadvertent motion, that’s why we always review and tell the players in memos, it’s always a warning that subsequent action of the same will be dealt with accordingly. Yun lang naman sa amin,” said Baculii.
“Marami akong extra work but that’s the job of the commissioner. Marami akong memo na sinend, copy furnished ang executive director (Rebo Saguisag) and the board of managing directors. So it’s always like that. 'Yun 'yung process, 'yun 'yung procedure,” he added.
The UAAP has formed its own pool of referees starting this season and officials inevitably came under fire once level of physicality on the floor escalates.
But Saguisag came to the defense of the officials, saying it's the coaches - more than the referees - who can help curb 'dirty plays' in the league.
"Parang unfair naman. Why is it that the league always gets the blame? Why don’t we look at probably the coaches who have a very big voice in the locker room? Tell the players to behave a certain way,” said Saguisag.
“The players, the coaches and the officials should always work together. Kaunting tulong lang. It is not as if they’re going unpunished. If I’m not mistaken, quite a number of people have already been suspended. They were thrown out for disqualifying fouls. Certain fouls have been called for unsportsmanlike fouls,” he added.
At the end of the day, the best way to avoid incidents like the one that led to Akomo's injury is for coaches to police their own players, Saguisag said.
The referees can only police what happens on the court – the intent and the character all boils down to how the coaches control their players, Saguisag said.
“Ang hirap naman sa iba, hangga’t makakalusot, ilulusot. Kaya minsan sinusulatan ng memo ni commissioner, minsan pinapatawag to ask for cooperation. For coaches to teach the players to play the right way,” Saguisag said.
“It’s not only the officiating. Yun ang problema kasi e. When left unchecked, the sport in itself does not build character. Good coaches do,” he added.
But that doesn't mean referees are off the hook. Baculi said the league's game officials are set to be evaluated entering the second round. Those who make the cut will be continuing to call games for the UAAP.
And those who fail to make grade?
“I don’t want to suspend referees, we’ll just take them out and replace them with somebody else - better, competent ones.” said Baculi. “Suspension is temporary lang e. That’s our direction, to cut the incompetent ones and select more competent officers to come in."