(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - If plans don’t miscarry, the UAAP and the NCAA, the country’s premier collegiate cage leagues, will merge this coming season as part of the grand centennial founding anniversary celebration of the University of the Philippines.

An NCAA founding member which moved over to UAAP in 1938, said UP is coordinating with the BAP-Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas for the NCAA-UAAP merger even if it will just be for 2008 when the state university celebrates a historical event.

The NCAA was founded in 1924 on the initiative of Dr. Regino R. Ylanan, a UP physical education professor. The original members were UP, Ateneo de Manila, La Salle, Institute of Accounts (FEU), NU, San Beda, UST and University of Manila.

UP won the UAAP championship just once, in 1986, but had four titles in the NCAA, winning the first three championships (1924-26) and reigning supreme the last time during the 1930-31 season. It captured double-championships (seniors-juniors champs) in 1925 and 1926.

With the full backing of SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan, executive director Patrick Gregorio is now working on the concept for formal presentation to the respective boards of the UAAP and the NCAA early next year.

Gregorio said he had informal talks with Ateneo’s Junjun Capistrano, La Salle’s Bro. Bernie Oca, Mapua’s Rey Vea, FEU’s Anton Montinola and JRU’s Paul Supan. The SBP top official is making the rounds of the NCAA and UAAP member schools with the blessing of UP president Emerlinda Roman, chancellor Gerry Cao and College of Human Kinetics dean Herc Callanta.

“In principle, all the UAAP and NCAA officials I have talked to have given their approval for me to pursue the project,” said Gregorio.

“One question begging for answer is what would the schools benefit from this. What I’m saying is that there would be divisional championships to be disputed by both leagues. But this time, there would be grand overall championship,” Gregorio explained.

“The grand champion could well be our representative in the next World University Games. The grand league could also be a good source of income which member schools could use to really develop their respective sports programs.”

Personally, Gregorio said he wants the project to push through, being a UP alumnus and SBP official.

“I think this is something we should pursue. This would be a legacy for all of us,” said Gregorio.

“The UP people think this is a good program for them to spearhead as part of the UP centennial celebration. For Mr. MVP, this is part of his game plan to rationalize school calendar, make games more exciting and elevate the level of collegiate basketball in the country,” Gregorio added.

Another UP top official Tezza Jazmines and another UP alumnus Rickie Santos, the PBA operations chief, are helping out Gregorio conceptualize the program. Santos has been asked to do the tournament format.

Incidentally, Vea, the incoming NCAA president, is former dean of the UP College of Engineering.

“I have talked to coach Joe Lipa and Mr. Rey Gamboa (of the Champions League). They told me they’ve tried to do it before but it’s hard. I said ‘pana-panahon iyan.’ There’s a major event (for UP), we might be able to convince the schools to join together,” said Gregorio.

“Kapag sila (the other member schools) may historical event din, let’s do it all over again. We’re excited. We believe anything is possible,” said Gregorio.

UAAP counts UP, Ateneo, La Salle, FEU, UST, UE, NU and Adamson as its members while the NCAA has in its fold Mapua, Letran, San Sebastian, San Beda, JRU, St. Benilde, Perpetual Help and PCU.

La Salle and Ateneo started their bitter rivalry in the NCAA. Ateneo also had its rivalry with San Beda in the NCAA.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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