#LetRobPlay: Explaining Rob Ricafort’s Eligibility Case Vs. the UAAP

by: Mickey Ingles (Photo: Jodel Cuasay/Flickr)

Rob will play after all.

Rob Ricafort has secured a preliminary injunction that allows him to suit up for the University of the Philippines Maroons for the rest of the season. The University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) had initially declared Rob ineligible to play this season for breaching the age limit of 25. (Rob is 24—he’s turning 25 this January.) This set out a firestorm of tweets supporting the UP basketball player to #LetRobPlay.

For those following the story, Rob had actually secured a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) last September 22, 2017; the TRO allowed Rob to play against defending champions De La Salle University in the first round—a game that will be fondly remembered by Peyups fans for years to come. Here’s a clip of Rob scoring for UP in his first game back:

The TRO, however, would elapse mid-season (which it did on October 12). So, the preliminary injunction is a huge legal victory for Rob and UP, as it essentially guarantees him a spot on the roster for the rest of the season.

Let’s break down and explain some of the legal issues behind #LetRobPlay.

Can the UAAP set an age limit to its players?

 It can. The governing law for collegiate sports is the Student-Athlete Protection Act (the SAPA) or R.A. 10676 (which we wrote about here). The SAPA, which was enacted amidst issues on residency requirements and fears of commercialization of student-athletes, is silent on eligibility requirements in terms of age. Hence, schools and athletic associations can draft, craft, and be daft about age requirements for student-athlete participation.

This is what the UAAP did in this case. In fact, this 25-year old cap has been around for quite a while. I remember the restriction being in place when I played for Ateneo more than a decade ago. (Now, don’t be cheeky and say I was too short to play basketball. It’s true. But I didn’t play basketball!)

I’m not exactly sure if Rob’s legal team is questioning the rule itself, but it seems the bone of contention lies in its application, especially since Rob turns 25 after the basketball season concludes.

On a relevant note, the SAPA also gives athletic associations the freedom to write their own rules for foreign player eligibility.[1] Hence, the UAAP and the NCAA is on the right side of the law when it limits foreign imports on the rosters of teams.

What’s a Preliminary Injunction?

 A preliminary injunction is an order granted at any stage of an action or proceeding prior to a judgment or final order, requiring a party or a court, agency, or a person to refrain from a particular act or acts.[2] Basically, it’s a court order that tells someone to stop what they’re doing and maintain the status quo. The opposite is a preliminary mandatory injunction, which requires something to be performed or done to maintain the status quo.  It can only be granted after hearing with and notice to the party sought to be enjoined.[3]

News reports are a bit unclear on whether Rob secured a preliminary mandatory injunction or a preliminary injunction, but regardless of what it was, the effect is the same—a court order mandating the UAAP to maintain the status quo of keeping Rob in the UP roster.

Note the word “preliminary” and the phrase “prior to a judgment or a final order” though. A preliminary injunction is a provisional remedy; it’s applied for and given while a case is pending. It only lasts while the main case is pending. It’s not a final adjudication of matters, but for Rob, it might well be—given the basketball season will end in a month or so, and the main case unlikely to be resolved by then.  (Fearless forecast aka Mickey’s wishful thinking: UP makes it to the Final Four, and Ateneo wins the championship.)

How do you get a Preliminary Injunction?

 Well, you have to prove one of the following:

  1. You are entitled to the relief demanded and the whole or part of the relief is restraining or requiring the performance of an act or acts;
  2. The commission, continuance or non-performance of the acts will work some sort of injustice to you; or
  3. Someone is violating your rights, and it tends to render the judgment of the main case ineffectual.[4]

Rob, it seems, was able to prove one of these three grounds.

What’s a Temporary Restraining Order?

Note that a preliminary injunction can only be granted after notice and hearing. However, in cases where great or irreparable injury would result to the applicant before the issue can be heard, a TRO may be issued to maintain the status quo.[5] Think of the TRO as something you would want when things get pretty dicey and urgent. You can’t wait for the hearing for a preliminary injunction—and you’ll be greatly injured if you do—so you go for a TRO.

There are two kinds of TRO.

If it’s a matter of extreme urgency and you’ll suffer grave injustice and irreparable injury, a 72-hour TRO may be granted by the executive judge of a multi-sala court or the presiding judge of a single sala court. That automatically expires after 72 hours.[6]

If the matter is not of extreme urgency but you’ll suffer great or irreparable injury, then a 20-day TRO may be granted by a judge after the case has been raffled to him or her. This automatically expires after 20 days. The court will determine if the TRO should be converted to a preliminary injunction.[7]

Remember that Rob was granted a 20-day TRO in September. It had elapsed before UP played its second round game vs DLSU last October 15, which explains his absence in UP’s 62-85 drubbing in the hands of the defending champs.

Fortunately for Rob, he was granted a preliminary injunction that now allows him to play for the rest of the season.

I hope he, like Alexander Hamilton, does not throw away his shot. (Had to put a Hamilton reference! Just had to!)

My question in all this is… did it have to go to court? Our courts have enough to deal with as is. Couldn’t this been have solved quicker and more efficiently through sports arbitration? I think so.

Mickey Ingles is the editor-in-chief of Batas SportivaHe is well over the UAAP age limit.  




[1] SAPA, Section 4.

[2] Rules of Court, Rule 58, Section 1.

[3] ROC, Rule 58, Section 5.

[4] ROC, Rule 58, Section 3.

[5] ROC, Rule 58, Section 5.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Lol says:

    I wanna clarify that the rule states “more than 25 years old by June 30.” Rob will only be 25. The cap is 25, he’s 24. Why is he ineligible?

    Is “more than 25 years old” a safe clause? No. What the rule means is that the player cannot be 26 by June 30.

    That essentially means the player can be 25 by June 30, right? But, not more than 25, which is 26.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s