ADVERSELY AFFECTED by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the National Collegiate Athletic Association finds itself needing to be creative in finding ways to forge ahead, particularly in staging its Season 96.

Speaking at the online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday, NCAA Management Committee Chairman Fr. Vic Calvo of Season 96 host Colegio de San Juan de Letran and last season’s chair Peter Cayco of Arellano University shared the current episode with COVID-19 has been tough for the country’s oldest collegiate league but they remain hopeful that things would eventually settle for them to resume activities.

“This is something difficult for us. We were supposed to open [the season] soon but we’re not. This is the new normal which is really not normal. It is tough but we are doing everything we can,” said Mr. Calvo, whose institution is celebrating its quadricentennial anniversary this year.

Traditionally opens in July, the NCAA decided to push the staging of Season 96 to early next year because of COVID-19, which remains a going concern for the country.

It has short-listed four mandatory sports for the season, namely, basketball, volleyball, track and field and swimming, even as it said it is still studying the possibility of including online sports and activities in the calendar.

The NCAA in March decided to cut short the holding of Season 95 as COVID-19 took further root in the country and mitigating measures put up by the government to fight against it were raised.

Some events like indoor volleyball were abruptly ended because of it while sports like beach volleyball, track and field and cheerdance did not even see the light of day.

The turn of events pushed the NCAA not to award an overall champion for the truncated season.

For Season 96, Messrs. Calvo and Cayco said the NCAA is looking at all possibilities, crafting numerous plans to stay flexible to whatever situation it may face come opening day.

“It all depends on what the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases), CHEd (Commission on Higher Education) and DepEd (Department of Education) would say. We would follow them in the kind of setup, protocols we will have for the season,” said Mr. Calvo.

“We are studying everything, from the budget, eligibility, holding of games and concerns on vaccines, and others. We are looking at different scenarios,” he added.

The officials said all NCAA member schools are having their share of struggles amid the pandemic but that they as an organization are standing together and they are confident that when activities eventually resume the NCAA will be one and strong. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo