MANILA - After fueling hype in the past weeks, the University of the Philippines decided to stick to its "Fighting Maroons" moniker at least for this season.

On Friday's pep rally for the state university athletes, school officials said they have extended the deadline for UP students who are interested in giving name suggestions.

The contest, which started last June 8, was extended until Sept. 3 this year in time for the annual cheer dance competition weeks later.

Winners of the contest will get at least two seasons' worth of free passes to UP games in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP), P20,000 cold cash, among others.

The issue whether UP has to bid goodbye to the Fighting Maroons tag has sparked discussions in various social networking sites, with media quickly picking it up.

College of Human Kinetics Dean Leilani Gonzalo was quoted in a website report as saying that the administration wanted a moniker that everyone in the UP community can relate to, say an animal symbol.

Meantime, UP president Emerlinda Roman said before thousands of cheering crowd inside the Ylanan Gym (College of Human Kinetics) that the university will have a better chance of bagging its second men's basketball crown this year.

"UP got its first men's basketball championship crown in 1986 when an Aquino is president. Now, 24 years later, we have an Aquino again as president, so it presents a good sign," she said, referring to the mother-and-son leaders President Corazon Aquino and President Benigno Aquino III.

Fighting Maroons co-captain Martin Reyes expressed confidence that the team will finally make a return trip to the Final Four.

"In my five years as a member of the (men's basketball) team, this is so far the best and we are hoping that we will finally make it to the Final Four," he said, while asking the UP community to rally behind the team which had its last semifinals appearance in 1997.

Third year coach Aboy Castro earlier said in a press conference last Monday that UP will not be a pushover this season.

UP will face a retooled season host De La Salle University (DLSU) for the opening game at 2 p.m. while University of Santo Tomas and University of the East will slug it out in the 4 p.m. main event.

The Diliman-based dribblers will lean on 2006 Rookie of the Year and skipper Woody Co, Magi Sison, Miguel Maniego, Reyes and Mark Lopez, and Chicago-based recruit Mike Silungan.

The Taft-based squad, for its part, will rely on its veterans Simon Atkins, Indonesian center Ferdinand, and Joshua Webb.

The team, which was delisted from the Final Four for the first time since the format's introduction in 1994, will also have a new coach, Dindo Pumaren, the brother of champion mentor Franz Pumaren. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)