It sounded like a good idea. Bring sports back, carefully, slowly, with adequate precautions. So why does it seem to be going wrong in so many places?

As major North American sports are preparing to return, a close look around the world finds a slew of problems that even the N.B.A.’s 113 pages of protocols might not be ready for.

College football is eternal, right? Well, maybe not. Williams and Bowdoin, small New England colleges that play in Division III, canceled fall sports. With fewer or perhaps no opponents available, rivals like Amherst, Wesleyan and Tufts may soon have to follow suit.

“Teams will be able to practice outside in small groups if they adhere to social distancing guidelines, and may progress to more gamelike practice activities if conditions improve,” Maud S. Mandel, the Williams president, said in a statement. But teams will not travel or compete against other schools. The statement continued, “Our decision has been guided by the utmost attention to safety protocols to ensure the health and safety of our athletes, coaches, staff and community.”

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