By Carlo Pamintuan, Sports Journalist
On September 5, the UAAP will open its 78th season. From the usual July opening, the UAAP moved it three months later because school have started shifting to the new academic calendar. This shift is to align the Philippine academic calendar with its Asian neighbors. It’s a step forward for the country’s education system, and it’s commendable for the UAAP to align their athletics with the college students’ studies.
This move shows that the UAAP is capable of making great decisions that would benefit the students of their member schools. Yet, this is by no means the norm. The UAAP has also made steps to severely limit the opportunities present for student-athletes, specially for those graduating from UAAP high schools.
The end of high school is an exciting part in anyone’s life. It’s like taking an introductory class in adulthood. A kid, as young as 16 years of age, will get the chance to choose where he wants to study for college, with his or her parents’ help of course.
Students weigh their options in what courses to take and which schools could help prepare them for the future. High school graduates have a clean slate. Anything and everything they did before will not matter anymore heading to college.
However, in the UAAP, in the league considered to be the most prestigious school-based sporting organization in the Philippines, student-athletes are not given the same liberties as other students.
Yes, they are free to choose whichever school to attend but choosing the wrong one could get them punished.
On September 5, Jerie Pingoy will officially be a member of the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP. A product of the FEU-FERN Baby Tamaraws, Pingoy graduated from high school two years ago. He was a good player, a vital cog in the success of FEU’s high school but he decided to move to Ateneo which was then celebrating its fifth straight UAAP championship in men’s basketball.
Instead of starting college and playing for Ateneo, the UAAP Board passed the Jerie Pingoy Rule, which stated that players who transfer from one UAAP school to another will be required to sit out two years before getting to play, unless the student-athlete gets a release from the school he or she is living.
This used to be the case for college-to-college transfers but Pingoy’s decision to move to Ateneo covered students fresh out of high school.
While college-to-college transfers have always been costly in the UAAP, high school-to-college transfers weren’t always this way.
It all started when Soc Rivera, another product of the FEU-FERN system, decided to move to the University of the Philippines for college. Back in UAAP Season 69, Rivera led the Baby Tamaraws to a stint in the UAAP juniors basketball finals where they lost to Ateneo. He was named as a member of the Mythical Five and was supposed to be a vital part of FEU’s collegiate campaign.
The drawback for Rivera was that he’ll have to pay his dues on the bench in a loaded FEU squad. If he moved to UP, he’ll have all the playing time that he wants. This gave birth to the Soc Rivera Rule that forced high school-to-college transfers to sit out one year before playing. This later on morphed into the Jerie Pingoy Rule.
The UAAP is capable of making great decisions that would benefit the students of their member schools. Yet, this is by no means the norm.
There’s no problem with a school’s athletic program looking out for its best interest. The problem is when protecting their programs harms the student-athletes.
School transfers are not all that uncommon. The problem with the transfer of student-athletes is the assumption that the exchange of money is involved in the discernment process.
Stories about huge signing bonuses, giant allowances, condos, cars, and lenient academic requirements have proliferated the collegiate athletic scene for years now.
When BJ Manalo decided to transfer from Ateneo in high school to La Salle in college, the fans of the Blue Eagles cried to the high heavens. Yet, Manalo was never presumed guilty. He was allowed to play for the Green Archers immediately.
Now, however, all student-athletes are presumed guilty. The sit-out is their punishment.
It’s time to tilt the balance back to the favor of the youngsters and Senator Pia Cayetano has been leading the charge. It is every Filipino youth’s right to get an education. It is also their right to play sports and represent their chosen schools.
If other institutions think that money is involved in the process, then they need to address that problem and stop trying to deal with the symptoms, which in turn hurt the student-athletes.
Schools need to start thinking about taking care of kids again.