Sufficient health and safety protocols have been put in place to keep the public and the participating teams safe from COVID-19 infections.
League officials said this as Season 98 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association formally opens Saturday with the men’s basketball games at the Araneta Coliseum and with the theme “Achieve Greatness Everyday.”
Swab tests to detect the presence of the virus will be regularly done to athletes, coaches and officials in the next four months as a precaution.
The season begins with host Emilio Aguinaldo College confronting Arellano University in the 3:30 p.m. opener, with San Beda University meeting Mapua University at 6 p.m.
Management committee chief Estafanio Boquiron of host EAC said that the protocols are working since the league implemented a bubble setup, following a situation involving the undermanned Letran squad.
The Knights have since returned to practice on Thursday after four players, who tested positive for COVID-19, have all recovered following five days of quarantine.
“Last Sept. 1, we had an agreement with schools that they all go into a bubble for the opening and to protect the players and the coaches from the virus,” Boquiron told the Manila Standard.
Boquiron added that minimum protocols like putting on face masks and sanitizing places that people go into will help the everyone stay safe.
After the opening games at the Big Dome, action will begin in a semi-bubble setup at the FilOil Ecocenter in San Juan on Sunday.
This means that only participating teams are required travel to and from the playing and venue during the course of the season.
The Mapua Cardinals and their intact roster are favored to reach the Final Four again.
The Randy Alcantara-coached Cardinals will have veterans Warren Bonifacio, Paolo Hernandez and Bryan Lacap back in action.
Season 97 ended with the Cards carrying a record of 7-2 and a slot in the championship round, where they lost to the Knights.
The squad, which also includes Toby Agustin, Marc Cuenco, Dan Gamboa, Enrico Garcia and Paolo Hernandez, still has the chemistry in them to make it back to the finals, according to Alcantara.