UAAP bars student-athletes from playing in pro leagues

Story by K.A. and R.J.

Pursuant to a league resolution approved by the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP), student-athletes in team sports will now be banned from participating in commercial and professional sporting leagues sanctioned by the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) without forfeiting their college eligibility.

The decision comes after several commercial leagues such as the Premier Volleyball League (PVL), National Basketball League (NBL) and Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) applied for professional licenses last year. 

Moreover, semi-professional tournaments like the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, Philippine Superliga (PSL), Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) D-League, and Spikers’ Turf are starting to follow suit.

As initiated by the University of the East and National University, the rule change aims to uphold the value of amateurism among the league’s student-athletes and member schools. 

Student-athletes will also no longer be urged to fulfill contractual club obligations throughout the course of their collegiate careers.

New guidelines

The said resolution prohibits incoming student-athletes from Season 82 onwards from participating in commercial and professional leagues as individual players. 

This will affect those seeking to partake in professional leagues such as the PVL, NBL, WNBL, Philippine Football League and Philippine Baseball League, among others.

Unlike the National Collegiate Athletic Association, special guest licenses issued by GAB for individual student-athletes will not be honored by the UAAP under the said rule change.

“Any athlete that participates therein will be considered a professional athlete which makes him or her ineligible to participate in the UAAP which is an amateur league,” Executive Director Rebo Saguisag explained in a press conference last December 2020.

Meanwhile, key exemptions from the ruling are set to take effect. Leagues such as the PVL and the PBA D-League will allow entry for UAAP teams and student-athletes who joined the UAAP prior to Season 82. Student-athlete members of Philippine national teams joining pro leagues are also spared from the rule change.

By Season 86 in 2023, no student-athlete will be playing as an individual in any commercial tournament once the ruling has been fully implemented.

Affirmative stances

UP College of Human Kinetics Student Council chairperson Angela Villamil acknowledged that the resolution further fortifies the amateur-laden foundation of the UAAP.

“A collegiate athlete is technically not a professional athlete and when they do join a pro competition they become a ‘professional’ which in my opinion loses the essence of being a collegiate, amateur athlete,” Villamil said.

For UP Men’s Basketball Team (UPMBT) head coach Bo Perasol and UP Women’s Volleyball Team (UPWVT) captain Roselyn Rosier, the upcoming rule change can be considered as a welcome development.

“It is just right that college players should not be allowed to play in GAB-sanctioned tournaments. There should be a clear distinction between amateur players and professional ones,” Perasol shared via text message.

Rosier recognized that while joining outside leagues can be advantageous for players to apply their gained exposure and experience to their college teams, performance may be affected if a player is juggling too many things at once. 

“Now with the said rule, I think it would help college players to focus on one career at a time,” Rosier said.

Taking the next steps

Student-athletes left with one more year of UAAP eligibility now have to make the crucial choice between wrapping up their collegiate careers or switching to the professional scene.

The renowned UPWVT trio of Tots Carlos, Isa Molde and Marist Layug decided to forgo their final playing years in the UAAP to enter the professional rank. 

Molde and Layug will be joining the PLDT Home Fibr Hitters, while Carlos is set to join the reigning champions Creamline Cool Smashers in the PVL.

The eventual cancellation of both Seasons 82 and 83 due to the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the former UPWVT captain to call it quits and take the next steps in her career. 

“Given the situation and my priorities, mas pinili ko mag-commercial team kasi … if ever magkaroon ng Season 84, by that time graduate na ako. … Mas pinili ko mag-commercial team kasi mas kailangan ko rin ‘yun,” Carlos said in an online interview. 

Another notable maroon-and-green standout who decided to go pro is UPMBT’s David Murell who recently submitted his PBA draft application. Meanwhile, after skipping Season 83 to focus on his Gilas stint, Javi Gomez de Liaño returned to Diliman for his final playing year in Season 84. 

Renewed chances

In the meantime, the future remains bright, especially for UAAP’s rising volleyball stars.

Set to make its debut season as a pro league, the PVL has expressed plans to revive the V-League, an amateur tournament that would accommodate college volleybelles affected by the UAAP’s rule change.

“It might confuse people: ‘Why are these collegiate teams participating in a professional league?’ We would like to differentiate it, and right now, it will depend on the management of Sports Vision if we will bring back the V-League to handle the collegiate tournament,” Sports Vision president Ricky Palou shared with the Philippine Sportswriters Association.

Looking back at her team’s preseason PSL title in 2018, ex-UPWVT skipper Carlos believes the restoration of the V-League can be a vital learning curve for her former collegiate squad.

“Malaking bagay ‘yun kasi nakakadagdag din siya sa morale nila, and ‘yung experience and feeling. ‘Pag na-feel mo ‘yung feeling na ‘Oh my God! Champion ako!’ ‘yun ‘yung babalik-balikan mo. … Mas magtatrabaho ‘yung mga bata. Mas magfo-focus sila sa training. May goal sila,” Carlos shared.

Barred from participating in outside leagues, student-athletes seeking to gain professional playing experience and earn extra income amid the pandemic would have to wait for discussions among UAAP officials to move forth before returning to action in the pro leagues.

With amateur competitions like the V-League being eyed for reinstatement, such opportunities for student-athletes to gain invaluable playing experience in pursuit of entering the professional sporting scene can still be within reach.

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