San Diego State will not be moving east after all.
On Wednesday, the university announced that it will remain a full member of the Mountain West Conference—the conference that the Aztecs helped to create in 1999—reneging on a plan made more than a year ago to move the football team to the Big East conference and its remaining sports in the southern California-concentrated Big West.
The move comes more than two weeks after Boise State—who was supposed to also make the move to the Big East and the Big West—announced that it will remain in the MW.
“San Diego State University is pleased to be continuing as a full member of the Mountain West Conference,” SDSU President Elliot Hirshman said in a statement. “We are excited about the opportunities our partnership provides for the development of the Conference and San Diego State University's athletic programs.”
The Aztecs will not owe an exit fee to the Big East because of a stipulation in their contract that the university can get out of the Big East without a penalty if there was no travel partner located west of the Rocky Mountains.
SDSU will, however, owe $1.5 million to the Big West, which will be paid for by the $2.5 million that the university will now receive from the Mountain West upon returning to the conference.
San Diego State had forfeited its share of the MW revenue in 2012-2013 when it announced its move to the Big East/Big West.
The move is a definite change for the Aztecs and might mean a huge blow to the Big East.
San Diego State is the 16th institution that was tied to the Big East in some manner that has announced that it will leave or not join the conference. This follows defections by charter members Syracuse and Pittsburgh, Sugar Bowl champions Louisville, Notre Dame and the seven non-football members of the league all in the last six months.
A year ago, the Big East looked like the more stable and financially solvent solution for SDSU to compete in this era of huge TV contracts being spent on college sports. Now, its current home seems to be that place for the Aztecs.
“We made the decision a year ago—13 months ago—to the Big East and the Big West, for exposure and stability of revenue in our program. Since that time, a number of things have occurred nationally,” SDSU athletic director Jim Sterk said at a press conference Wedn. “Most recently, the Big Ten taking Rutgers and Maryland and that starting another chain reaction. Our move today is part of that reaction to the changing environment. A lot of things have changed. During that time, the Mountain West used that opportunity, when Boise State and San Diego State announced that they were leaving, we had been in discussions, as a conference, about trying to change the TV deal. That has occurred. I think they signed a revised CBS agreement on Christmas Eve. Boise State signed a revised agreement on New Year’s Eve. And now today, we’re officially remaining a member of the conference.”
With the addition (or the re-addition) of the Aztecs, the Mountain West will have 11 full members (Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico, UNLV and Wyoming, plus San Jose State and Utah State which join in July) and 12 football-playing members (the 11 schools plus Hawai’i).
With 12 football members, the Mountain West now has the opportunity to host a conference championship game and split its members into two divisions.
ESPN is reporting that the most popular re-organization would be to have the five Pacific time zone schools (Fresno State, San Diego State, Nevada, UNLV, and San Jose State) in one division plus Hawai’i and the six mountain time zone schools in the other (Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, Utah State and Wyoming).
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said in a teleconference Wednesday that the conference is leaning towards having the championship game be played “on a campus.”
While Thompson would not admit to having a unanimous vote by the Mountain West presidents to accept San Diego State’s return, he said that there were no hard feelings about the entire situation.
“In my mind, San Diego State did not leave the Mountain West Conference,” Thompson said. “They’re intention was to leave, but they’ve been a charter member since 99. Other than me, probably Rocky Long and Steve Fisher are the longest tenured Mountain West people. We have considered them nothing less than a charter member who had made a decision, but changed that decision and it is business as usual. They never left.
“We’ve used that analogy, ‘we got the band back together.’ I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. People are energized.”
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