No stopping for the Big Three


If your league ever had the Big Three, the biggest hater, regardless of the number of teams, would be No. 4. Now it's up to No. 4 to mobilize the rest of the league, stand up to the Big Three, and create parity.

This is what is happening in one of the top basketball leagues in the country. The UAAP reportedly has a proposal that would make it more expensive for student-athletes to transfer. But will this really affect the Big Three's winning streak?

Side note: The last UAAP championship won by a school that was not the University of the Philippines (UP), Ateneo de Manila University, or De La Salle University was in 2016. That was in Season 78, and that was by Far Eastern University (FEU).

Incidentally, 2016 was also the year that Rain or Shine won the Commissioner's Cup in the PBA. It was also the last championship won by a team that was not part of the SMC and MVP empires. Does that mean that 2016 was the year that the dominant teams got greedy?

The Ultra Power (UP) Boost

There have been dominant teams in the past and in the 90s, when I was in college, the Katipunan schools were the whipping boys and the UAAP was dominated by La Salle and the University of Sto. Tomas (UST). FEU also put together some good teams and so did UE but it was both UST and La Salle that got their fourth straight win.

Ateneo's rise came in the early 2000s after their classic rivalry against La Salle. They were the most dominant team of the millennium and produced some of the most dominant college players in the last two decades.

The recipe for success in college basketball is no secret. Since it is open recruitment, talent is king and in a capitalist country, talent comes at a price. The top academic colleges have recognized this and pooled their alumni resources to make the highest bid. The UP Fighting Maroons came late to the game, but their presence changed the game and took it to a new level.

With alumni well-positioned in both business and politics, UP has gathered enough backers to join the bidding wars, and the signing of veteran recruiter Goldwyn Monteverde sealed the deal for them. Since UP entered the fray, the recruitment war has become more intense, with fewer schools able to compete. But that's just how it goes in the UAAP.

The other schools could only watch in awe as recruiting could not be regulated. However, when schools began recruiting their student-athletes through transfers, they decided to draw the line.

The new rule

The new rule proposal was aimed at penalizing student-athletes who transfer to another UAAP school. This was done before by imposing a two-year exclusion rule. However, this rule was repealed by the Philippine Congress. Due to the Student-Athlete Protection Law, they can only impose a one-year exclusion rule instead of a two-year exclusion rule.

Since the UAAP board couldn't violate the law, they focused on eligibility. If the new rule is implemented, a student-athlete will sit out one year but lose two years of eligibility. This way, they get around the law.

Will it work?

The rules have yet to be finalized, but the three most influential top brass could try to challenge the rule, as they did in the board meeting. It could also draw the attention of Congress, as it could be seen as violating the principle of protecting student athletes.

Will this put an end to the “poaching” of star players? This rule is said to have been triggered by the wave of transfers last January, particularly the transfer of UAAP Mythical Five member Rey Remogat to UP. If the sit-out rule doesn't deter players like Remogat, would losing their eligibility to play do so? In fact, it could even backfire.

Assuming players are moving for financial reasons, they can now command a higher fee for a shorter commitment and also turn pro sooner. The rookie season could end up as a tryout and then they can rake in the big money after a break.

Let's see if the rule holds.