IN BASKETBALL lingo, benchwarmers refer to rarely used players who only see action when the outcome of the game has been decided.

Sad to say, this has been the role of the other 13 other sports, aside from basketball (men’s basketball to be specific), that make up the wholesome University Athletics Association of the Philippines when it comes to television exposure from ABS-CBN’s Studio 23.

Since acquiring the rights to broadcast UAAP sporting events in 2000, Studio 23 has only lived up to the promise of airing a single sporting event.

Not to take everything away from Studio 23, it airs other sporting events from time-to-time, as often as drizzle during summertime. The coverage of other sporting events, however, comes through sports bulletins or video footage highlights. In short, Studio 23 has never covered any other sporting event on a consistent basis like what it gives to the men’s basketball tournament.

Recently, Studio 23 aired the women’s volleyball tournament semifinal game between UST and De La Salle University. Apparently, women’s volleyball has been receiving commercial recognition for the past few years because of the successful staging of the Shakey’s V-League Tournament and the Volleyball Grand Prix legs in Manila.

It is true that from the commercial and business standpoint, the other sports—table tennis, swimming, chess, athletics, lawn tennis, fencing, taekwondo, judo, baseball, softball, football, and badminton—are difficult to sell in a country dominated by three Bs in sports: basketball, boxing, and billiards. But the obligation to air the other sporting events should not be frustrated by the hard-to-sell excuse and the loss-of-return-on-investment argument. Rather, Studio 23 has the obligation to make the other sports appealing and palatable to the viewers.

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More than anything else, Studio 23 also has this duty to educate the viewers that UAAP is not only men’s basketball and, at times, women’s volleyball.

In his Manila Bulletin column, former UST Rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P wrote three years ago that “the UAAP is a league established to promote amateur sports.”

On this note, UAAP board members must try to rethink their position on the road the league is now traversing.

Due to the boob-tube exposure that the men’s basketball tournament receives, the UAAP is in danger of becoming a basketball league. Obviously, AA in UAAP stands for Athletics Association which is not synonymous to basketball.

It is Studio 23’s problem to sell the other sports. As a media company, Studio 23 should be resourceful enough to think of ways to promote the other sports.

In the next contract negotiations for broadcasting rights, the UAAP board members must bear in mind that the UAAP is not a commercial basketball league like the PBA and the Philippine Basketball League.

The UAAP has survived for almost 70 years. To think that the UAAP will crumble if basketball, men’s basketball that is, is not given flamboyant television coverage would be tantamount to assuming that high school seniors will not apply for admission at Adamson University, Ateneo de Manila University, La Salle, Far Eastern University, National University, University of the East, University of the Philippines, and UST if they do not advertise their academic programs through the top news dailies in the Philippines.

If Studio 23 can only commit to providing television coverage to men’s basketball and women’s volleyball, then the UAAP board can grant exclusive coverage to Studio 23 as regards those sporting events alone. The rights to the coverage of the other sporting events can then be granted to the other television companies who are more than willing to air the events.

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At any rate, the coverage of other sporting events must not suffer because Studio 23 thinks they are hard to sell.

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