RUMOR: After cutting ties with Ateneo and withdrawing support for the Eagles, Manny Pangilinan is shifting his support to University of the Philippines’ Maroons in the UAAP.
FACTS: We’ve been pursuing leads to this story since late September, or shortly after a falling-out with Ateneo officials led Pangilinan to cut his ties with the school as well as his support for the Blue Eagles’ basketball program. But we came up empty every time, only because the people close to the sports patron couldn’t give us enough confirmation for the story to stand on.
Ironically, it was a tip from a high-ranking official of the Ateneo sports program that led us down that path. Just two days after MVP announced that he was parting ways with Ateneo, the official told Spin.ph that he expects the telecommunications tycoon to shift his support, financial and otherwise, to UP’s long-suffering basketball program.
Why UP and not another school, he was asked. And why not just concentrate on San Beda, which is a lot easier to do for Pangilinan since he has been backing the school for a long time. “Because San Beda is in the NCAA, and I think MVP would still want to maintain a presence in the UAAP,” the official, who requested that he not be identified, said.
One of MVP’s own people later quashed the San Beda angle with one simple assertion: “The support (MVP) gives to San Beda right now is not that far off from the support he gives to Ateneo. So bakit kailangan pang ilipat ang suporta sa kabila?” the insider said.
That left UP as the most logical answer. But before the pursuit could get anywhere, it again reached a dead end after a talk with Smart Gilas coach Chot Reyes, who also happens to be the executive director of the MVP Sports Foundation.
“There is no plan to shift support to another team, much less a plan to shift support to a particular team like UP,” the former Talk ‘N Text coach emphatically told Spin.ph.
Then came the development on Wednesday that rekindled interest in the story. Pangilinan, in a talk before members of the Alpha Sigma fraternity at the Makati Shangri-la, pledged his “commitment to the future of UP” and made a P5 million donation to the state-run school, through the fraternity.
Although the donation was for various projects in the school to be picked by the fraternity, Pangilinan said the sports program should at least be one of the logical beneficiaries of the gift.
The news naturally got the UP community all excited, with one longtime supporter of the Maroons saying he has no inside information on any negotiations to that effect but expressing optimism that it “wouldn’t be far off” that such support to the team will follow.
The UP official confirmed MVP has no official connection whatsoever with the school. His only link to the state university are the Gregorio brothers – Pato, Allan, and Ryan, coach of the MVP-owned Meralco team in the PBA – who are all from UP and are a very much a part of MVP's sports circle. Pato, who is sec-gen of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines, also happens to be a member of the Alpha Sigma fraternity.
It was also through the Gregorios that Pangilinan made his first significant aid to the UP sports program a few years ago – a bus for the exclusive use of the Maroons.
If Pangilinan decides to give the Maroons his full backing, he can even bring in Bo Perasol to help the team as a coach or in another capacity. Perasol, a former UP Maroon and coach of the defunct Powerade pro team, was initially tapped to take the place of Norman Black at Ateneo but has since been in limbo after the falling-out between Ateneo and Pangilinan.
But does the expression of support to UP on Wednesday lead to a deeper commitment to the Maroons and all-out support for the basketball team?
If it happens, Pangilinan’s support should instantly pump life into the Maroons, whose last UAAP title came in 1986. According to multiple sources, the telecommunications tycoon used to support the Eagles to the tune of P2 million a month or about P25 million annually, covering everything from the salaries of the coaches and support staff, allowance of players, and overseas training camps.
To give you an idea on how big that support is, the Eagles' P2 million monthly support from MVP is enough to fund the basketball programs of smaller schools for an entire year. The P25M is also just a few millions short of the P27M minimum salary cap for professional ball clubs in the PBA.
Asked to confirm the figure, Reyes said: “Sorry, but I can’t discuss that.”
But what Reyes would confirm was that there is no definite plan for Pangilinan or his sports foundation at this point to support the UP Maroons on a long-term basis, the same way he backed the Eagles until the falling-out last month.
“Nothing to that effect,” Reyes, who was present during Wednesday’s Alpha Sigma event, said. “Nalagyan lang ng slant sa mga storya, but there’s no plan to do that right now.”
On whether that would change in the future, only MVP knows.