MANILA, Philippines -- The NCAA's upcoming season will be a "special" one as the league explores different ways of staging its sports events amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NCAA had been forced to cancel its 95th season in March 2020 in the onset of the pandemic, but they are determined to push through with Season 96 by the first week of May.
"We have to be creative," said Fr. Vic Calvo of host Colegio de San Juan de Letran, the chairman of the NCAA Management Committee.
This means that the NCAA will hold events virtually to ensure that they adhere to the quarantine restrictions. Among the events that are certain to take place on online platforms are chess and taekwondo.
The taekwondo events will be held in cooperation with the Philippine Taekwondo Association, according to Calvo.
"'Yung chess at saka taekwondo, sigurado na 'yun, nakakasa na 'yun," he said.
Initially, the NCAA had hoped to hold four mandatory sports for Season 96 -- basketball, volleyball, athletics, and swimming. Given the current restrictions, however, Calvo said they will stage only two of those sports -- basketball and volleyball -- in a "hybrid" manner.
A full tournament for both men's basketball and women's volleyball is unlikely, but there are other competitions that can be held, he added.
"We really have to make it exciting, as much as possible… For example, a slam dunk competition," Calvo suggested.
"Sa volleyball, 'yung skills challenge," he added.
Online skills challenges became prevalent during the lockdown last year as athletes and leagues sought ways to remain competitive. The NBA, for instance, held a HORSE Challenge in April, while ABS-CBN Sports staged a slam dunk contest won by former De La Salle University star Jamie Malonzo.
Another one of the NCAA's earlier plans, which was to hold tournaments in a "semi-bubble" format, has been deemed too risky.
"Sa ngayon, 'yung pinaka-safe of course is online," Calvo said.
As for esports, Calvo said they ultimately decided not to include it in their lineup.
"Sa esports, nagkaroon kami ng meeting, kailangan din ng physical presence pala 'yun. Akala ko, pwede sa bahay," he explained. "Kailangan nila pumunta sa isang studio, tapos doon 'yung laro."
"At saka 'yung cost, sobra, ang laki ng cost pala noon, ng esports. So we removed that, and modified our own ways of doing things," he added.
Despite all the restrictions, Calvo said they are determined to make the upcoming year a memorable one with what he has already dubbed a "special season" for the NCAA.
"Alam ko sa mga nakakausap ko, paano niyo itutuloy 'yan, ganito 'yung problema. So antayin niyo na lang kung paano namin gawin. 'Yun lang ang masasabi ko, just wait and see," he said. "Baka ito pa ang maging template. Kasi kung magawa namin 'to ngayon, next season, ii-improve na lang namin 'yan eh, kasi we have the experience, and we have the expertise of holding these things."