The Southeastern Conference announced May 22 that it would allow member schools to begin voluntary workouts on campus beginning June 8.
Less than one month later, on June 20, Sports Illustrated reported that more than 30 members of the LSU football team were under quarantine after they "tested positive for COVID-19 or were found to have had contact with those who tested positive."
Two days earlier, the University of Texas, which had its football players return to campus June 15, confirmed that 13 of its athletes tested positive for the coronavirus.
A day after that, Clemson confirmed 21 of its own football players had contracted the virus that’s now killed more than 120,000 Americans.
After initially saying the test results for its student-athletes would not be made public, Missouri announced Thursday afternoon that of 308 individuals within the athletic department tested for COVID-19 since June 8, there have been five positive tests, of which four cases were asymptomatic.
Not all of the MU athletics tests were for student-athletes. Of the total number tested within the department, 211 were athletes, including four of the positives, the university confirmed.
It was not immediately clear whether any of the infected athletes are football players or what sport(s) they’re involved in.
Despite the looming danger of the pandemic and evidence from positive tests within programs across college football, teams from each of the Power Five conferences are already back in action. And those that aren’t yet likely will be soon to follow.
Missouri players returned to the program’s complex on the earliest date possible. Back on campus 86 days after spring practice was shut down March 14, players and coaches reacclimated, settled back in and adjusted to a new normal, which has included social distancing, smaller-than-usual workout groups, continual sanitation of equipment and the use of masks inside team buildings.
The goal: to maintain safety and to preserve the opportunity of a full season this fall.
Among the other measures Missouri utilized was having its players sign a pledge, committing them to follow certain guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. Unlike other programs, the pledge did not constitute a waiver of liability. Instead, it simply served to reaffirm the commitment of players and other members of the program to maintain safety protocols upon their return.
But as teams in college and professional sports have reconvened across the country, there is quick evidence that protocols within team buildings only do so much. Teams and programs control the environments in which their players exist when they are at team facilities. But what about when they leave? The cracks are already beginning to show.
In Orlando, Florida, earlier this week, six players and four staff members with the NWSL’s Orlando Pride tested positive for COVID-19 after players visited a local bar.
So how are players on Missouri’s roster making sure their teammates are staying home and staying away from potentially dangerous settings?
Junior tight end Daniel Parker Jr. distilled it into two words: respect and accountability.
"As a junior or senior, you know this (season) might be your last opportunity in order to make it to the next level," Parker Jr. told local media Wednesday. "So we don’t want to risk sitting out at all."
"Now from a point of respect, as a freshman or sophomore, you look at the older guys and you need to understand that this might be their last chance," he continued. "So why should you be selfish and go to a bar? Now you might give it to some other teammates, and now the whole team has to sit out."
With bars and restaurants in Columbia continuing to reopen and others beginning to operate with fewer limitations, the concern about players and members of the program entering dangerous spaces is becoming more prevalent. As for college football and its immediate future, a season in the fall still hangs in the balance and remains largely tied to the outcome of these summer workouts and what happens from there.
The message from within the program, from leaders like Parker Jr., is simple.
"If you stay away from anybody outside of the football team — we get tested — we should be fine," Parker Jr. said. "It all goes back to respect and accountability."