After ruling the UAAP men’s basketball tournament in Season 79 bannered by Ben Mbala and Jeron Teng, the De La Salle Green Archers are all set to reclaim their place on top with the entry of former NCAA Juniors Season and Finals MVP Joel “Mai-Mai” Cagulangan and Joshua David, as well as three Fil-foreigners who basketball pundits say are the key to the Green Archers’ return to glory.

The three Fil-foreigners, Keyshawn Evans, 23, from Illinois State; Jamie Orme, who split his college career playing for Highline Community College and Portland State respectively; and James Laput, a Filipino-Australian who played for Young Harris College, a Division II School, will benefit from the “Troy Rike Rule.”

The Troy Rike Rule — named after the Wake Forest college ball player-turned Gilas cadet-turned National U Bulldog — states that “A student-athlete from a non-member school who is pursuing graduate studies in a member school shall not be subjected to residency.” In plain basketball language, it is called “one and done.” You play one year and you’re done.

The question now is, is such a rule really beneficial to the athletes, member-schools and the UAAP in general?

Ten years ago, I was given a full scholarship to pursue a master of arts (MA) degree in education by the institution I was working with. The school president, while bestowing upon me the grant, told me just one thing: “Ang inuumpisahan, dapat tapusin.” (Finish what you started.)

I almost finished that degree at De La Salle University before I transferred to Ateneo de Manila University to pursue another master’s degree, in religious education, under another full scholarship program that I finished last year.

The reason I was not able to finish the former was I thought I could pursue two master’s degrees at the same time, which my mom did in 1988 when she shuffled her time pursuing an MA degree in educational management at the University of Santo Tomas on Saturday mornings and in the afternoon, an MA degree in Filipino at De La Salle University. The Commission on Higher Education has since changed its regulations, allowing a student to take one master’s program at a time.

Now we ask: Do these student-athletes really want to pursue and finish their graduate degrees? Or is higher education being used to win at all costs? What degree are these student-athletes taking? Are they full-time graduate students?

If we cannot give straight answers to these questions, we are giving higher education a disservice. We are not teaching our student-athletes the right thing. We are not leading them to the right direction. We are bastardizing the term student-athlete just for the sake of winning trophies.

The rule says it all, “one and done.” Sports, education and values must go hand in hand. We must teach through sports. The Troy Rike Rule is problematic in the long-term and can be prone to abuse.

Also, it’s about time the UAAP adopted a handbook, because the rules of the league are fluid and subject to the almighty powers of the board. Every year, the rules change. There must be a permanent handbook in the interest of all the stakeholders of the league.

“Ang inumpisahan ay dapat tapusin.” But with the One and Done Rule, higher education will remain a footnote rather than the bigger picture in the life of a student-athlete.

(Thumbnail image from ABS-CBN Sports+Action)