By Jeremy S. Perey and Alexis Ailex C. Villamor
WHAT’S with the National University (NU) that some Tigers are lured into becoming Bulldogs?
The school now owned by business tycoon Henry Sy has convinced at least three UST athletes to join its lineup, in an apparent bid to improve its showing in upcoming sports competitions.
But the transfer of volleyball siblings Dindin and Aliya Santiago and ex-Tiger Cub Kyle Neypes has raised ethical questions over the manner of recruitment—some call it “piracy”—in collegiate sports.
Neypes’ team mate Cederick Labing-isa similarly opted not to enroll in UST for college, while former athletics director Francis Vicente is also a goner. Where they will end up remains uncertain.
Volleybelle Alyssa Valdez, a key member of the UST champion team, has reportedly joined the Ateneo De Manila University. But she has yet to be officially released by the Institute of Physical Education and Athletics (IPEA).
Fr. Ermito de Sagon, O.P., athletics director and a member of the UAAP board, said UST would not play into the idea of signing up top athletes primarily with hefty monetary packages.
“There is no way [to prevent athletes from transferring] if the players are offered something much higher than what is offered here [in UST],” he said.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to just compete in terms of money because the moment we do that, people will end up playing…just for money.”
De Sagon said the Bulldogs were apparently bent on having “an immediate impact in the league that’s why they are getting well-trained athletes.”
“Nevertheless, we will never go to the point of being unethical when it comes to scouting players. After all, UST is not a chain of business establishments. Even if we are, we will not do such thing,” he said.
De Sagon said the school would stick to its current package—a monthly allowance (P1,500 for team captains, P1,300 co-captains, P1,000 for regular players), full-scholarship, free food and board and lodging, and health care.
One of the tallest players in the league at six-foot-one, Lady Spiker Dindin Santiago joined NU after her first UAAP championship last season as a rookie in the seniors’ division. She is now enrolled at NU as a hotel and management student.
“I think they (athletes) have financial problems and they were offered a way out,” De Sagon said. “She (Santiago) was saying she would like to play for UST but she cannot do anything.”
Coach Cesael de los Santos said that Santiago’s departure was a family decision. De Sagon said he told the spiker to defer to her guardian’s decision when she came to him for advice.
Volleybelle Valdez’s failure to secure her release papers from the IPEA will force her to follow the UAAP rule requiring her to spend a one-year residency in the other school she hopes to play for.
Such a provision will no longer apply if she is officially released by UST.
“If we will release her, we are also bound to release other players who have left us like the Santiago sisters,” De Sagon said.
In the case of ex-athletics moderator Vicente, his departure came with the allegation that he had in fact been booted out of UST. De Sagon denied this, saying Vicente had opted to retire “to take care of his children and his family.”
The departure of Tiger Cubs Neypes and Labing-isa caught their coach, Allan Ascue, by surprise. “I expected that they would continue their career here with the Tigers,” the coach said.
Help NU win
In an interview with the Varsitarian, Neypes said he was yet to enroll in NU, but was already listed in its official lineup for UAAP Season 73.
“I want to help NU’s team because they have always been at the tail-end for the past years. This time, I want them to move up,” said the skipper who placed second in the MVP race last season.
After Season 72, Ascue recalled seeing Neypes and Labing-isa still training with him in preparation for the National Basketball Training Center D-League.
Both dribblers also belonged to the elite RP Fiba U-18 pool and were training for this year’s Junior Olympics.
“After they asked permission to join the [RP] National team, I have not seen them for some time. Then, speculations rose saying that they already signed up for the other team (NU),” the coach said.
Unlike Neypes who came to UST to personally tell his coach that he was leaving, Labing-isa is yet to explain his decision not to join the senior team, according to Ascue.
Tigers coach Pido Jarencio said he had been eyeing to recruit Neypes and Labing-isa, but was surprised when they opted to play for another UAAP team.
“Last year, they agreed to play for us but suddenly, they were gone,” he said. “I have no regrets because it’s their decision. It’s hard to force someone whose heart is not with the team.”
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