MANILA, Philippines -- UAAP teams will need to adjust to a different atmosphere when they return to action in Season 84 this Saturday.
Unlike in previous seasons where fans and cheering squads provided a festive atmosphere during games, the first few play dates of Season 84 will be played without an audience.
Exercising an abundance of caution, the UAAP opted to hold the first round of the UAAP Season 84 men's basketball tournament behind closed doors at the Mall of Asia Arena. However, league officials are optimistic that they can soon welcome live audiences, as restrictions continue to ease and COVID-19 cases go down.
"We're working on having spectators back by the second round," said Nonong Calanog of host school De La Salle University. "Hopefully our fans and our friends from the press will be able to have them back, hopefully by the second round."
Calanog noted that the first round of the tournament will last for just two weeks, as the league has put together a compressed schedule with all eight teams seeing action every play date.
"Medyo mabilis lang 'yun. We'll be able to hopefully accommodate our fans already by the second round," said Calanog.
The PBA has already opened its doors to fans last month, while the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers in late February were also held in front of an audience. The Premier Volleyball League is also hoping to welcome a live audience when its playoffs start.
UAAP executive director Atty. Rebo Saguisag explained that the league took extra caution because they are dealing with student-athletes and not professionals.
"Doon pa lang… someone has to be held liable, in case something happens. So 'yung extra care. Extra caution lang naman kami. But we're not saying no," he stressed. "Like I said, second round or maybe even earlier, if the numbers are encouraging."
"The numbers are there, the science is there, and for as long as we keep our masks on, and the numbers keep going down, I'm very hopeful. Maybe, baka even after a couple of games, 'pag talagang the dust has settled, maybe we can start putting in the fans," he also said.