There really is no stopping the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) from raising the curtains on Season 96 next month.
Fr. Vic Calvo, OP of hosts Letran said that the league has been deep in its preparations for the June 13 opening. This marks the return of college sports in the country since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began.
The Grand Old League last held games back on February 13, 2020, where reigning champs Perpetual swept the Knights in men’s volleyball action. The season was officially terminated by the policy board a month later.
“Nilalatag na namin ang preparations priming up for the opening on June 13,” Calvo told Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters’ Association Forum.
“In fact, everything is in order, thanks to our network partner [GMA] for really working hard para matuloy itong NCAA despite the pandemic. Whatever is allowable ng CHED and IATF ay ginagawa ho namin.”
Season 96’s theme will be ‘Rise Up Stronger,’ which, Calvo said, sums up the league’s mantra in staging competitions amidst the prevailing health crisis. This makes them the first college league to plunge back into action.
The University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) canceled Season 83 for the 2020-21 athletic year last December to allow member schools to focus on their academic programs and their participation in Season 84.
“I guess it was providential that we actually canceled the season because we could have actually encountered a bigger problem if we were preparing for something like that,” said UAAP Season 84 president Nong Calanog on UAAP Talk.
“And then, ECQ comes in again, not just all the logistical problems but also, having our athletes expect that they were playing and then just to be canceled again. So those are things that have been considered in the past year,” he continued.
“In the end, we tried to come up with some things that we could do, even if in the case at that time, a situation where no tournament would be possible. But this is where we are now.”
For Calvo, the league needed to still push through with its 96th season to show that college sports can still go on.
“Parang translation ng Arriba spirit. This is rising up, and just to show na even with the pandemic, we’re not down. Against all odds, we will really push through with this season,” he said. “Hindi kami nag-declare na walang season.
“Remember ‘yung iba nag-declare na cancel ‘yung season? Ngayon parang nag-iisip ata na meron pa silang season. Pero kami talaga from the start, we really believe na merong season. Never cancelled ang season.”
Three events will definitely take place as virtual competitions according to NCAA Management Committee (Mancom) member Peter Cayco. This includes chess and taekwondo (poomsae and speed kicking).
Basketball and volleyball skills challenges, on the other hand, have yet to gain approval from authorities for it to be held.
“‘Yung two sports are on the way na, which are chess and taekwondo which is poomsae and speed kicking. We are still awaiting approval if we would be allowed to hold skills challenges for volleyball and basketball later on,” he said.
Calvo expressed in the session — powered by SMART and presented by San Miguel Corp., MILO, Amelie Hotel Manila, Braska Restaurant, and PAGCOR — how excited he feels to finally open the season.
“This will be one of the best, if not the best, opening the NCAA will ever have sa history niya. Kasi alam mo naman ‘yung situation natin, it calls for creativity, tsaka gumagana ‘yung resiliency ng Filipino people lalo na kami sa NCAA,” he said.
“We pledge to the fans not only of the NCAA but of Philippine sports — that we will do our best to showcase the spirit of competition, especially during this pandemic.”