AFTER almost two years of inactivity, UAAP teams are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
College teams are awaiting the clearance from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to return to practice as the UAAP targets a February opening to a new season, sources bared.
Although there's no formal go signal yet, the UAAP, through Executive Director Atty. Rebo Saguisag, is waiting for the approval of the IATF on a draft of its guidelines and protocols for the return of the varsity league's practices, and hopefully soon, games.
The return of face-to-face classes in some member-universities augurs well for the UAAP's bid to open shop anew after two cancelled seasons.
Several schools that Spin.ph reached out to have confirmed that dormitories are now being prepared for possible bubble trainings, with players based out of town already being notified to return to Manila and rejoin their teams.
Many teams have also pencilled late-October or November as the potential start of practices, depending on the clearances given by the IATF to the UAAP.
UAAP student athletes have also been prioritized in the vaccination plan of both the government, through the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the private sector.
According to sources, college teams plan to train in a bubble setup for at least three months while the league works out a schedule, hopefully for the La Salle-hosted UAAP Season 84 season to tip off by February 2022.
The tricky part, however, will be holding these players inside the campus especially with the holidays fast approaching.
The UAAP landscape, for sure, will be vastly different once the league returns.
Coming in are six new coaches - easily the most coaching changes in an offseason, leaving Ateneo's Tab Baldwin and Far Eastern University's Olsen Racela as the only holdovers from UAAP Season 82 in 2019.
University of Santo Tomas, runner-up from the last tourney, is bringing in Jinino Manansala to replace the suspended Aldin Ayo, while Goldwin Monteverde has been handed the reins at University of the Philippines following the resignation and subsequent promotion of Bo Perasol.
La Salle has brought in Derrick Pumaren to replace Gian Nazario and consultant Jermaine Byrd; Adamson hired Nash Racela to take the place of Franz Pumaren; Jeff Napa is also coming in for his alma mater National University after Jamike Jarin and a brief stint by Monteverde; and Jack Santiago has been signed to coach University of the East to succeed the late Bong Tan and consultant Lawrence Chongson.
That's not even mentioning the changes in personnel following departures through graduations, transfers, and overseas signings, of big names like Ateneo's Dwight Ramos, UP's Kobe Paras, La Salle's Aljun Melecio, FEU's Ken Tuffin, and Adamson's Jerrick Ahanmisi.
Still, it's going to be an interesting buildup for the teams, with some, particularly the UP Fighting Maroons, the La Salle Green Archers, and the UST Growling Tigers all undergoing major roster overhauls.
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