UAAP takes a hit
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 19, 2017 - 4:00pm

The court of law has brought the inconsiderate UAAP to its knees in granting a preliminary injunction for UP player Rob Ricafort to play in the ongoing senior men’s basketball season despite a league ban. The UAAP could’ve avoided the slap in the face if it granted an exception to Ricafort on the rule that players must be 24 until the end of the entire university calendar even as he won’t turn 25 before the basketball tournament finishes late this year. Making an exception has been done before so it’s not as if allowing Ricafort to play would set an earth-shaking precedent. In fact, the UAAP has even changed rules in the past to suit the interests of certain schools in ruining the dreams of innocent athletes.

So finally, the UAAP was put in its place after a long history of demagoguery and political gerrymandering. It took Ricafort himself to seek redress from the court after he was declared ineligible by the UAAP. The court issued a 20-day TRO that enabled Ricafort to play in three UP games, two of which the Fighting Maroons won. When the TRO expired, the UAAP filed a motion to dismiss the appeal for preliminary injunction but was rebuffed. The other day, the court found merit in Ricafort’s case and cleared the way for him to play the rest of the campaign in exposing the injustice of the UAAP’s ruling.

“I’m beyond ecstatic to finally be cleared to play for the remainder of the season,” said Ricafort who’s the brother of actress LJ Moreno, wife of PBA legend Jimmy Alapag. “This is my one and only UAAP season and I’m just overjoyed that I get to play without anything hanging over my head. Being able to play is a dream come true in itself but it’s just the beginning of my journey.

* * *

“With regard to the requirements of the league, I believe I did my part. As a student athlete, I served my residency and passed all my classes in my first year at UP. I was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to play and represent the school by coach Bo (Perasol). I hope this situation will shed some light on issues similar to mine in the future so that no other student athlete will go through as many distractions and setbacks as I did. For now, it’s time for me to focus only on the task at hand which is to help my team win as many games and secure a Final Four spot.”

Perasol, who gave Ricafort a new lease on life after he underwent 16 months of drug rehab, said: “While I respect the responsibility and right of the UAAP Board to make decisions and rule changes, I am also glad that student athletes like Rob are given relief by our courts on their right to be given a chance to play. The whole team has prayed with Rob in the last few months leading to this. He’s been working with us for almost two years now. I told him that he can focus now on the basketball court rather than the court of justice.”

* * *

Ricafort said he’ll cherish the memory of his first UAAP game ever. That was when UP upset La Salle, 98-87, last Sept. 23. He scored his first-ever UAAP basket on a reverse layup just before the halftime break. “That first game, the moment I got called up to get subbed in was something I’ll never forget,” he said. “The feeling was something I can’t really describe. I was really happy and anxious at the same time. To be honest, I was slowly losing hope when I was deemed ineligible. I was disheartened that all the work and sacrifice seemed like it was for nothing. But I had to fight for my right to play. Being granted that 20-day TRO was one of the greatest moments this year for me.”

Ricafort said after the UAAP season, he plans to continue pursuing his hoop dream. “Taking it to the next level, step by step,” he said. “I’ll be entering the PBA D-League draft. Then, move on from there. I feel like God surrounded me with great people. Coach Bo, being one of them, gave me a chance. And it’s definitely a blessing. One of the things he said that stuck to me was everybody deserves a second chance. He, along with my teammates and the UP community, accepted me for who I am, regardless of my past. It’s an honor to be allowed to play the rest of the season so I could do as much as I can to represent the whole community.”

The UAAP should learn a lesson from this setback that it never pays to be heartless, unfair, selfish and uncaring when deciding the fate of innocent student athletes.

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