It has been nearly 17 months since Aldin Ayo resigned as UST Growling Tigers head coach after mounting a controversial training “bubble” for the Tigers in Sorsogon during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic and amid strict lockdowns in the country. The UAAP later banned him indefinitely and the controversy caused the team’s exodus and eventual rebuild. 

Ayo, in a statement in the incident report of the Sorsogon police on the “bubble,” said he came up with the idea to engage the Tigers in “farm work” after a parent supposedly asked him to take custody of an unnamed UST player after losing employment amid the Covid-19 pandemic. He also took responsibility for the “condemnation” the Sorsogon trip had caused to the University when he resigned from the team on Sept. 4, 2020.

According to the report, which was certified by Sorsogon Gov. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, all individuals, including coaches, players and managers from the UST group, were of legal age and had secured documents prior to their Sorsogon travel (consent waivers, negative Covid-19 test results, travel passes issued by the Metro Manila police director, certifications from respective local government units declaring the participants were not persons under monitoring). Sorsogon’s city health office had also okayed the Tigers’ trip.

Then director of the Institute of Physical Education and Athletics, Fr. Janel Abogado, O.P., had initially declined the Sorsogon trip, but UST eventually allowed Ayo to hold the activity but gave the instruction that no funding would be released and the activity would be “purely voluntary.”

The UAAP said its ban on Ayo was based on UST’s report that “showed Ayo endangering the health and well-being of the student-athletes under his charge when he conducted the training during a government-declared state of public emergency intended to arrest the Covid-19 outbreak.”

Ayo, a Dominican product, has since appealed for the reconsideration of the ban—and received UST’s support—to which the UAAP responded, saying it would tackle the appeal “in due time.”

With the first UAAP season in two years just a few weeks away, should the UAAP finally lift the ban on Ayo and let the master of the “Mayhem” system coach again?

Ayo was among the most sought-after coaches in collegiate basketball after leading the Letran Knights to the NCAA title in 2015. 

He then joined the La Salle Green Archers and steered them to the UAAP championship the following year.

Ayo joined the Tigers in 2018 and signed a three-year extension, which he would not complete, in December 2019. He led the UST Growling Tigers to a finals berth in UAAP Season 82.

Ayo recently coached Manila Chooks, a rebranding of Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 President’s Cup champions Zamboanga City Chooks, in international FIBA 3×3 basketball tournaments.

The Tigers are currently coached by Ayo’s former UST assistants: Jinino Manansala, the juniors’ former head coach, is the interim head coach of the collegiate team, and McJour Luib is the Tiger Cubs interim head coach. The team’s rebuilding also welcomed players that fit into Ayo’s “Mayhem” mold: probinsiyano, athletic and dynamic.

Reinstating Ayo would require Manansala to transition to team manager, which a source told me the latter was willing to do.

Bringing Ayo back to España would make a lot of sense basketball-wise. He has a proven coaching record and had led the struggling Tigers to the finals in just two years. But to make the Ayo-UST reunion possible, the University must first bury the hatchet, and the UAAP must first lift its ban. Can these be done within the next three weeks? We’ll see.


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