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What to Expect in NCAA Season 96

Article by: Lea Ysabel Q. Evangelista
Graphics by: Albert Dylan David

Following last year’s cancellation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)’s last leg of tournaments, the ten private colleges, including Mapúa University, are ready for the new season as it takes flight on June 13, 2021, with the theme “Rise Up Stronger: NCAA Season 96”.

This athletic year is beyond different from the others as some changes were implemented to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure the safety of the athletes and the committee. Here are several of the modifications and new protocols for Season 96.

Contact Sports Restriction

As quarantine protocols are still being observed, the NCAA decided that only select no contact sports will be hosted this season. During the press conference last Friday, this season’s host, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, confirmed that virtual chess matches and online tournaments for taekwondo will push through, along with possible skills-based challenges for basketball and volleyball where players will showcase their skills individually. There may be a chance for the latter to proceed as the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) approved the opening of gyms at 30% capacity and non-contact sports last June 11.

New normal set-up

Even the long-standing customs and practices of the 97-year-old organization had to be altered. Traditionally, the NCAA starts the season every July, but this was adjusted for Season 96 to cater to the restrictions at hand. The NCAA has come a long way to push through with the event from plans to launch in the first quarter of 2021, to May 2021, and finally, a solid opening ceremony on June 13. Following the protocols for no contact sports events, the opening game will not be a basketball tournament unlike the past years. However, virtual competitions for taekwondo’s poomsae are scheduled to run from June 14 to 17 followed by the speed-kicking competition from June 18 to July 5.

No overall champions

With the abrupt end of the previous season, the country’s oldest collegiate sports league was not able to hail its overall champions for Season 95, which will be the same for this season as well. Jose Rizal University Management Committee (Mancom) member Paul Supan stated that they based this event scheme on the “Loose Conferences” of the NCAA Season in the 1960s, which did not have a complete list of participating sports and their own champions. NCAA Season 96 will be recorded as part of the league’s history, but it will not be counted for the athlete’s maximum number of playing years.

Foreign Player Ban

Back in 2018, then Mancom Chairman Frank Gusi announced the ban of foreign players starting Season 96, even if their playing years go beyond that year. The decision has not changed and has finally been upheld for this season. The new rule was initially set for Season 90 but was pushed back because foreign players were able to enroll before that season. The issue was brought to light because imports earned most of the awards for the competitions. Meanwhile, half-Filipino players are still allowed to join.

Shift to GTV

Since the shutdown of its previous broadcast partner ABS-CBN last May 2020, the NCAA had to find a new media partner for the broadcast of the upcoming season. Last November, the Mancom decided to sign a 5-year deal with GMA, specifically GMA News TV’s rebranded channel GTV, after long deliberation.

Upon the announcement of the start of Season 96, GTV launched a program called “Rise Up Stronger: The Road to NCAA Season 96” as a primer for this year’s preparations along with the help of the 10 schools that will participate, namely Arellano University, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Emilio Aguinaldo College, Jose Rizal University, Lyceum of the Philippines University, Mapúa University, San Beda University, San Sebastian College-Recoletos, and University of Perpetual Help System DALTA.

Just like their theme, the season hopes to be a symbol of perseverance. “We don't give up—that’s the message we want to deliver. We have to adjust to the situation and make the most of it,” Season 96 Mancom chair Fr. Vic Calvo of the host school emphasized during the NCAA Press Conference last Friday.

The NCAA Season 96 will be aired on weekdays at 2:45 PM, Saturdays at 4:30 PM, and Sundays at 5:05 PM on GTV, Channel 27 on free cable, and GMA Now.
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