Game fixing scandals hound the UAAP
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-09-24

The Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) versus Far Eastern University (FEU) 72nd UAAP Finals showdown may not even materialize. FEU could be eliminated from playing in the Finals by UE (University of the East) in their deciding game today.

FEU enjoyed the twice-to-beat advantage over UE for having ended the two-round regular season as second placer to ADMU. However, UE forced FEU to a deciding second game today in a manner that now places the UE Red Warriors as the favorites to win anew over FEU. The loss to UE last Saturday showed just how devastating the departure of ace guard Mark Barroca was to the FEU Tamaraws.

It was first announced that Barroca left the FEU team because of a relationship problem with the team management and his team mates.
However, word eventually leaked out that the FEU ace guard was suspected of game fixing and point shaving — which Barroca denied.

It does not raise eyebrows anymore when we hear about basketball game fixing scandals. The first major game fixing scandal that shook national consciousness happened shortly after the imposition of martial law in September 1972 when the highly favored Crispa team lost the championship to a less talented Mariwasa team.
A member of the Crispa team had exposed the game fixing scandal.

Because of persistent rumors about game fixing in pro basketball, bettors shifted to the collegiate leagues — the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and the bigger UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines). The game bettors figured that varsity players will die for their Alma Mater and that there is less probability of game fixing in collegiate basketball. They were wrong.

There have been newspaper reports that even estimated the betting pot to reach as much as P200 million. Now, when a team that would pay much bigger odds (like P2 for a P1 bet) suddenly wins — imagine the amount of money that game fixing syndicates will be willing to pay the key players of the stronger team and the referees to ensure the preferred outcome.

When the powerhouse Ateneo Blue Eagles, the 72nd UAAP’s top team, lost to the then cellar dwellers — University of the Philippines (UP) — your Chair Wrecker was shocked and almost fell off our chair. That any team can lose in the UAAP is a given. But the way the biggest stars of the Ateneo Blue Eagles played during that UP game made your Chair Wrecker suspect more than just a player’s off day, as is the usual excuse.

Because of that shocking loss, your Chair Wrecker paid special attention to the succeeding games of the Blue Eagle stars in question. In some of the Ateneo games that followed that lone loss to UP during the regular season, our suspicion grew.

In that Ateneo loss to UP, the odds would have easily paid P2 from a P1 bet on UP. To ensure a P200 million take from a P100 million bet, a game fixing syndicate could easily offer P10 million in bribes to star players of the highly favored team and of course the refs. You will note that in the suspicious games, ref calls tend to be controversial — usually favoring the weaker team.

Refs too can have a bad day just like star players. When the ref in question makes bad calls that affect both teams, then we can let that pass as an off day of the ref. But when the bad calls affect only the highly favored team, then we should look closely if that is not the result of game fixing incentives.

To fix a game, the corrupt star player can miss his field goals and free shots. He can make stupid fouls and that would compel his coach to pull him out of the game. He can even create a situation where the refs will throw him out of the game. He can also allow the player he is guarding to score. He can conveniently position himself out of range to rebound. He can make bad passes that trigger fast breaks of the opposing team.

His bad performance also affects the performance of his team mates who look up to him as their go-to-guy. He causes team rhythm disruption as many plays revolve around him. Instead of being the team dynamo, he transforms into a boil on the heel of progress.

The managers of a once very popular pro team knew if their legendary star player was in point shaving mode. His feet position shifted from right foot forward to left foot forward when he was taking jump shots and free throws.

Not too long ago, the UE team benched a star player during a championship game for suspicions that he sold the game. We also had an FEU star player who was shot — allegedly by the game fixing syndicate. About three years ago, FEU mysteriously dropped from its team roster a very promising player, again said to have been involved in game fixing.

The departure of Mark Barroca from FEU had deprived UAAP basketball fans of what could have been a great exciting Finals battle royale. Now, for Ateneo to lose the UAAP championship, it will largely depend if the Blue Eagle star player doesn’t want to win.
The Justice Department should step in and stop the fraud.

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A great disservice to P-Noy

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