NEW FORMAT: ALASKA OWNER UYTENGSU BACKS EALA PLAN
MANILA, OCTOBER 29, 2003 (BULLETIN) By Dodo Catacutan Jr. - IF IT’S all up to Alaska team owner Wilfred Uytengsu, Philippine Basketball Association commissioner Noli Eala’s bid for a major reformatting of the pro league could be off and running in no time.
Alaska’s maverick team owner yesterday threw his all-out support behind Eala’s three-pronged proposal for next season, which include a shift to a one-championship format, a shortening of the league season and a broadened commitment to the national team.
“It is a bold plan, but one with merit,” Uytengsu told the Bulletin, a day after team representatives deliberated on Eala’s proposals in a board meeting at the New World Hotel in Makati – and adjourned almost six hours later with no decision in sight.
The initial feedback was that team owners were split on the issue, with some of them – speaking on the condition of anonymity — expressing apprehension that a shortened calendar and the junking of the three-conference format would take too big a toll on the teams’ exposure.
Sources said some team owners were also reluctant to expand the league’s commitment to the national team beyond the Asian Games.
But Uytengsu, a former league chairman and among the most outspoken members of the board, went on record to put a stamp of approval on Eala’s plan, saying it’s high time the 29-year old league seriously considers a shift to a one-championship format.
Insisting the traditional three-conference season has become monotonous, Uytengsu said a one-championship format could raise the stakes for teams in every game, consequently bring out more energy from the players and eventually make for more exciting matches.
“The three-conference format is no longer as attractive as it used to be. I think the time for a single national championship has come,” said the Alaska owner.
“It will force all teams to put it all on the line because there will be no next time, no next conference and as a result, the fans will appreciate better and harder played games.”
Asked about Eala’s resolve to put the league at the forefront of the national team program, Uytengsu said: “It’s also an important component of the overall plan.”
Red Bull coach Yeng Guiao, on the other hand, said he has his reservations about the proposed move – not so much on the plan, but on the timing.
Guiao, a former PBL commissioner who is credited for bringing the semi-pro league back to its feet in the late nineties, said the time may not be ripe for a single championship season after the league’s shift to a two-conference format this year yielded lukewarm results.
“It may be too big a risk at this time,” he said. “I would be more encouraged if this year’s shift to a two-conference format yielded good results. But that is not the case. So why go deeper into the risk?”
Guiao said he would rather see the league choose between sending teams to the Asian Games or the Asian Championship – but not both.
“Once the league stabilizes, then baka puwede na sa dalawa,” he said.
The league’s board members are set to sit down again in a special meeting on Tuesday to come out with a decision on Eala’s proposals.
Meanwhile, Alaska and FedEx clash today at the PhilSports Arena in a game crucial to both teams’ bid to reach the quarterfinal round of the Samsung PBA Reinforced Conference.
The Aces are currently in third place in Group A with a 4-7 (win-loss) card and FedEx another rung lower at 4-8. The loser of the match may have to contend with Purefoods (3-9) in a battle for the fourth and last quarterfinal spot in the bracket.
The day’s other match pit the league’s two most dominant teams – Red Bull (9-2), which has won its last eight games, and Group A leader Coca-Cola (11-1), unbeaten in their last six outings.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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