When word got around that incoming National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) host school San Beda College (SBC) tapped veteran sportscaster Andy “Dr. J” Jao as Season 92 commissioner, some camps reportedly were not pleased. According to one news article, an unnamed league insider expressed fears that Jao would replace long-time NCAA referees’ group BRASCU with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) game officials, which he claimed could favor SBC. SBP’s outgoing president is prominent business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP), who is also the chief backer of the San Beda Red Lions. His term as SBP boss ends this month.
Now let’s put the issue into perspective. The NCAA’s practice is to give the host school the right to select the commissioner, just like in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP). The appointed commissioner should then be given the freehand to choose the referees and staff that he can work with.
But it’s not easy finding the right man for the job. The ideal commissioner would be someone with experience and proven track record, respected by the basketball community, and with no ties with any of the teams. It seems Dr. J fits the criteria. A La Salle alumnus, Jao was at the helm of the UAAP’s commissionership twice, in 2011 and 2014. Under his watch in Season 77, it became the first time in a long while that neither Ateneo nor La Salle entered the UAAP finals. He was also a former Philippine Basketball League magistrate. Looking at his credentials, Jao doesn’t seem to be a bad choice at all, especially when there are few candidates that possess the same experience and record.
The SBP, on the other hand, is a national sports association (NSA) for basketball and not a private organization. It has a board of directors representing major associations nationwide, including the PBA, UAAP and NCAA. It’s certainly not owned by MVP.
The truth is, regardless of whomever SBC appoints, there will always be objections and speculations. Such is the flaw in the practice of giving the host school the responsibility of naming the commissioner. What’s the logic behind this practice?
I don’t know if there ever was a commissioner accepted by everybody. Last year, host University of the Philippines (UP) named one of its own products, Atty. Rebo Saguisag, as UAAP commissioner. If the UP Maroons were a strong contender last year, this choice would’ve surely drawn strong protests. Outgoing NCAA commish Bai Cristobal was once head coach of not one but two member schools–San Sebastian and Perpetual Help, so his appointment three years ago was also met with opposition. When Aric Del Rosario was in charge of the NCAA in 2009, some claimed he favored San Sebastian coach Ato Agustin, who was his former player and fellow Kapangpangan. Dr. J held the post twice in the UAAP, even when his alma mater is a member school. So you see, it’s not hard to find reasons to speculate.
What’s even worse is that this practice encourages the changing of tournament directorship each year. Different managers have different management styles. Different referees have different training, and even interpretation of the rules. So if host schools keep changing the commissioner and referees, the teams would’ve to adjust to their styles each year too.
Why not follow the model of the Olympics and FIBA, where the host country simply takes care of the venues, logistics and opening festivities? When the Philippines hosted the Asian Championships in 2013, we didn’t pick the commissioner or referees. It was FIBA Asia that conducted and policed all games.
Would it not be better if the member schools, through their Policy Board members and Mancom reps, simply put their heads together to nominate ideal candidates, and then agree on who’s the best choice? And if they can’t agree, they can take a vote, and even invite other stakeholders like the TV partner or members of the media to participate in voting. This way, the choice would’ve been a popular one. Also, they should give the new commish a minimum three-year term to better achieve consistency, stability and progression.
It makes better sense for all members to agree on who should steer the ship, and finally spare us all the fancy suspicions.