Go Archers -

Changes We’d Like to See in the UAAP – Part 2


This is the 2nd of a 2-part series. To view the first part. Click Here

Is the Board the Problem?

Every year, the lament is the same – how to get the precious tickets to the most important games, such as the La Salle-Ateneo matches, the final 4, and the finals. The long lines at the ticket outlets, the presence, however low key, of scalpers at the venues, these are annual complaints at this time of the year. Looking at the mess that the UAAP frequently seems to be, particularly in ticket distribution, one is tempted to blame it all on the host school. But if this is a problem of the host school, why does it happen every year when the member schools take turns as host? It’s therefore not a host school problem, it’s more systemic than that. It’s how the UAAP is run, and since the board dictates how things are done, the evidence points to the imperious UAAP board, which has arrogated onto itself the ultimate power to decide on all UAAP affairs on behalf of the stakeholders.

The Board = the stakeholders?

Let’s first define “stakeholders”. Many on the UAAP board think that they are the only major stakeholders who count, but that’s not the case. The major stakeholders are comprised of the member schools, their student population, alumni, employees, and the general sports loving public. These are the people who line up to buy tickets, fill the venues and buy snacks from the concessionaires there, and are the targets of the mass commercialism that accompanies the UAAP hysteria. Many of the board members forget that without the students, alumni, and other interested parties, the UAAP becomes nothing more than a sideshow.

Ideally, the actions of the board should also consider the interests of and inputs from the other stakeholders. Unfortunately, in the last few decades, the board has acted as if alone knows what is best for the UAAP, and has acted as the sole determinant of what should happen in the UAAP.

This has resulted in an apparently capricious and frequent change of the rules from year to year, depending on whether a school feels that a competitor has gained an advantage which should be negated with a rule change. It also depends on which school is able to influence the other schools’ board members. The most obvious examples of erratic policies are the number of players a school can have on the lineup, the number who can be fielded in a game, the rules for player eligibility and residency, the choice of referees, the number of drums that can be used in a game depending on the venue, no cheering during time outs, etc.

Although the board supposedly formulates and enforces the rules, it has even violated its own rules, particularly in the Cardona case where the board insisted on investigating the so-called violation of the eligibility rule even after the deadline for entertaining protests (end of the first round) had already lapsed.

One unusual practice of the board is that all its decisions are “unanimous”. Apparently, even though there are dissenting votes, once a majority has been reached, the board declares unanimity. And it does not reveal the details of the vote. Some areas that the board has decided on in the past were game protests based on technicalities, even though this should really be the area of the technical committee and the commissioner.

Where changes can be made?

Segregate the strategic, policy making functions from operations – One major problem today is the insistence of the board to oversee the operations and meddle in technical disputes. The NCAA, in contrast, has set up a management committee which handles the operational matters of running the league. The board should be concerned with long term direction and policy formulation. Operations, such as tournament management could be left to an independent professional sports management group in the on a multi-year engagement. That way, the operations can be made as impartial as possible, and there will be consistency in the application and enforcement of rules. The management group will run the league’s various events, and provide real sports officials to oversee competitions and ensure that the competitions will not only be run in a fair and unbiased manner, but also align the UAAP with the national sports development efforts. Instead of a one-year perspective, the UAAP can then have a longer-term, developmental view from the board, which can be executed at the operations level.

Align operations of the different sports with the national interest – involve the NSAs to ensure that the UAAP fills a role in national sports development, and allow proper technical management of the events. We should never have a repeat of what happened a few years ago, when the potential national record of a La Salle track and field athlete was invalidated due to the lack of proper equipment during the event.

Fix the ticket distribution process once and for all – every year, there is a notable and irritating lack of tickets for the most interesting games. Scalping of tickets has become common place, even among students who line up for their school’s allocation then re-sell them at scalper prices. It is a common sight for people who are obviously scalpers to queue at Ticketnet outlets as early as 4am so they can snap up those precious tickets. The “experimental” scheduling of the La Salle-Ateneo game in the first round is indicative of the drive for more ticket sales – effectively doubling the number of tickets that can be sold. I’m sure that someone on the board, who help run the “institutions of higher learning” that is the UAAP, can devise a way to minimize the scalping and ensure proper ticket distribution to the real stakeholders.

Set qualifications for board membership – In the NCAA, the school representatives to the board tend to be the school presidents or top executives. In the UAAP, it’s the school’s discretion who they will appoint. Some board members do not look like they’ve ever been engaged in activities requiring physical exertion, or joined any sporting competition. Since the board governs the league, it’s logical that there should be some minimum qualifications for one to be a board member.

Set term limits for board members – There is notable lack of fresh thinking in the board, because the same ideas are circulated every year by the same old members. Nothing major ever changes, nothing like a paradigm shift in thinking, just minor variations of last year’s rules to suit a board member’s particular point of interest. A possible reason for board members insistence on keeping their seats (like politicians) could be the allowances that board members reportedly receive. It is not published for obvious reasons, but there have been rumors that the allowances of board members run to six figures. If true, this is already a great incentive for them to fight tooth-and-nail to stay on the board, despite a lack of genuine concern for the future of the league. Stagnant board membership is not a fertile ground for creative improvement or genuine change, and some members had been on the board for over a decade.

Reduce the commercialization of the league – in the last few seasons, notably when ABS CBN took over the coverage, timeouts in high profile games have extended beyond the standard time allotted. This is dictated by the tv network, which has to sell so many minutes of commercials for every break. The audience watching live often gets impatient while the tv floor director holds up the proceedings until the network has milked the last billable second of ad time. Another obvious indication of the commercialization is the cheerdancing competition. In past years, the school teams were mandated to include an advertisement of the major sponsor in their routines. All this detracts from the beauty and excitement of the competitions, and begs the question: where does all this money really go?

Publish the minutes of meetings – proceedings at the board and the technical committee levels, should be open to the public. Unless there’s something to hide, there is no reason to keep this under wraps. Which school introduced new rule changes and how the schools voted on issues is sure to be of interest to the general public.

The way the UAAP is run is not fine. Let’s let competent people run the UAAP.

The question is, will the UAAP board agree, or will they vote to maintain status quo?