THE INTRIGUING merger between the National Capital Region Athletic Association (NCRAA) and Universities and Colleges of Luzon Athletic Association (UCLAA) is slowly becoming clearer by the day as more details are slowly being made public. As of this writing, 16 schools have signified their intention to participate in the new league set to debut on January 18, 2017 at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City and televised over Basketball TV and Solar Sports.
The 16 schools have been divided into two groups of eight with NCRAA champion Philippine Merchant Marine School joining Saint Francis of Assisi College System, Asian Institute of Maritime Studies, Colegio de San Lorenzo, De La Salle University-Dasmarinas, National College of Business and Arts, Philippine State College of Aeronautics, De Ocampo Memorial College. The other group will be headlined by UCLAA champion PATTS School of Aeronautics along with Olivarez College, Rizal Technological University, Philippine School of Business Administration-Quezon City, Technological Institute of the Philippines and new additions Don Bosco Technical College-Mandaluyong, Emilio Aguinaldo College-Cavite and University of Makati.
The two groups will then conduct a single round robin amongst themselves every Monday and Thursday, assuring a team of a minimum of seven games. The top four in each bracket will advance to the knockout crossover quarterfinals followed by best of three series in the semifinals and finals.
However, at least four teams are making a bid to join the league and raise the membership to as much as 20 schools. Apparently, the prospect of nationally televised games is a big come on for the schools.
Engr. Ted Cada, the Athletic Director of AIMS, has been designated as the new league’s first President. A Commissioner for Basketball will soon be appointed together with the announcement of the officiating arm.
The entry of Don Bosco, EAC and UMak makes up for the non-participation of UCLAA members Lyceum of Alabang and Philippine Nautical and Technical College. EAC used to be a member of the NCRAA until they took a leave last year.
The NCRAA-UCLAA union is the latest attempt to create a super league for schools outside of the established and moneyed leagues. Back in academic year 1989-1990, the then Manila Universities and Colleges Athletic Association (MUCAA) and Philippine Integrated Colleges and Universities Athletic Association (PICUAA) merged forces to form the Cultural and Athletic Association of Colleges and Universities in the Philippines (CAACUP).
The CAACUP though did not last and by 1993, it disbanded with some of its members forming the NCRAA. In 1995, it was the turn of the Colleges and Universities Sports Association (CUSA) to open shop and they operated for 13 seasons until 2007.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the NCRAA set up the Universities and Colleges Athletic Association (UCAA) in 2002 which was actually a tournament for NCRAA members to keep busy in the first semester. Both leagues had almost identical membership until the UCAA ceased play in 2014.
Saint Francis quit the UCAA and eventually the NCRAA to form the UCLAA in 2008. The move was an offshoot of a controversial league decision to expel the Doves in the middle of the season over alleged non-payment of tournament fees but it seems that has been forgotten and time has healed the wounds of division.
Earlier this year, the 16-year old National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) raised eyebrows by suddenly expanding its membership to 14 schools, including a few schools that used to be members of the earlier mentioned leagues. As seen in the last 25 years or so, a lot of the schools simply play musical chairs by shifting allegiance often, something that the NCRAA-UCLAA union should address in the future and lead to true unity in Philippine collegiate sports.