The National University Pep Squad in the UAAP Cheerdance Competition at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, November 17, 2019 (MB File Photo)

The two leading collegiate leagues in the country – the NCAA and the UAAP – were both on the final stretch of second semester sports as participating schools were trying vie for the titles in different disciplines.

Up for grabs too was the General Championship for the two leagues – an award traditionally given to the school with the most points garnered as accumulated from placing in various events.

Then, COVID-19 happened.

The coronavirus outbreak in the country last March forced officials of both the NCAA and the UAAP to initially postpone the sports events, but eventually decided to cancel it altogether due to the pandemic.

As the government ordered lockdowns in Metro Manila and in different parts of the country, the NCAA canceled events in volleyball, football, lawn tennis and soft tennis as well as track and field and beach volleyball.

The league’s cheerleading competition was also shelved.

The same happened in the UAAP as officials called off events in volleyball, tennis, football, baseball, softball, athletics and 3×3 basketball. The league’s cheerdance was also canceled.

However, the two leagues were able to finish other events in the first semester, or during the second half of 2019, which include basketball when Letran stunned San Beda in the NCAA final, while Ateneo completed a three-peat run with a victory over University of Santo Tomas in the UAAP title showdown.

In effect, the NCAA wasn’t able to finish Season 95 due to the cancelation of tournaments, while the UAAP failed to complete Season 82.

While the NCAA is still looking to push through with Season 96 with a bubble tournament for basketball, followed by volleyball, swimming and athletics in March of 2021, the UAAP has opted not to proceed with Season 83, which traditionally opens September.

Aside from the cancelation of games, the two leagues also dealt with the controversial situation with television partner ABS-CBN, which broadcasted the NCAA and UAAP games through its Sports and Action channel 23.

The failure of the giant TV network to get approval from Congress for a franchise renewal forced the two biggest collegiate leagues in the country to end ties with the television network.

The oldest collegiate league NCAA still has five years with ABS-CBN, while the contract of the UAAP was supposed to be up for renewal last May, but because of the controversy, both leagues looked – and eventually signed with different TV networks.

GMA-7 became the new partner of the NCAA, which signed a deal in early December that will last until 2026.

As for the UAAP, it picked TV5-CignalTV as its new partner for the next five seasons.

Controversy, meantime, shook the UAAP to its core as the UST Tigers basketball squad was found to have conducted training camp in Sorsogon under head coach Aldin Ayo, who was suspended by the board for his actions.

The school was likewise penalized, while UST players opted to leave the university and transfer to other schools.

Aside from the NCAA and the UAAP, other leagues like the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), the Philippine Super Liga (PSL) and Premiere Volleyball League (PVL) also canceled tournaments due to the pandemic.

Source: Manila Bulletin (