MLB outbreak reveals college football's vulnerabilities

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FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby talks to the media after canceling the remaining NCAA college basketball games in the Big 12 Conference tournament due to concerns about the coronavirus in Kansas City, Mo. Big 12 schools still got a strong payout from the conference during the pandemic. The revenue distribution to the league's 10 schools for the 2019-20 school year averages $37.7 million each. That figure announced Friday, May 29, 2020, at the end of the league's virtual spring meetings was down only about $1.1 million a school from last year. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Those working to get college sports up and running have been hoping the return of professional sports would provide valuable information that could aid their efforts to play through a pandemic.

A COVID-19 outbreak for a Major League Baseball team three days into its season forced two games to be postponed Monday and brought a glimpse of how difficult the task will be.

“We're still learning things and this is a data point, there's no doubt about that," Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. "We're doing what our scientists and doctors are telling us to do. Move forward slowly and constantly re-evaluate.

“I think this will just be the new normal. There will be ebbs and flows and there'll be disruptions.”

Like MLB — and unlike the NBA, NHL, WNBA and MLS — college sports will try to conduct their seasons outside a controlled, virus-free bubble. The first major college football games in an evolving schedule that should start to come into focus this week are a little more than a month away.

COVID-19 flare-ups have shut down voluntary workouts throughout July at about two dozen major college football programs, including Ohio State, North Carolina, Kansas State and Houston. Last week Michigan State and Rutgers both announced positive tests among players and staff led to 14-day quarantine for their entire teams.

Full-blown practices for teams trying to start their seasons around the Labor Day weekend will begin by early next week.

Greater challenges lie ahead and what happened to the Marlins could be an ominous sign, said Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Oxford College of Emory University.