San Diego State remains in Mountain West, could go to Pac-12 in future

Jul 19, 2023, 8:02 PM

Mountain West Conference commissioner Gloria Nevarez speaks during NCAA college football media days...

Mountain West Conference commissioner Gloria Nevarez speaks during NCAA college football media days in Las Vegas, Wednesday, July 19, 2023. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

(Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

LAS VEGAS  — San Diego State not only remains in the Mountain West, the Aztecs are getting the money that was withheld after they initially informed the conference of their intention to leave.

The Mountain West will provide the $6.6 million that was withheld, but San Diego State is responsible for paying the conference’s legal fees associated with the matter, first-year commissioner Gloria Nevarez said Wednesday at the conference’s football media days.

“I think my overarching philosophy to the entire thing is San Diego State is a positive to the Mountain West,” Nevarez said. “We are better with San Diego State, and I feel good about where we landed.”

Nevarez, however, knows this could be a temporary arrangement and acknowledged the Aztecs could still leave at some point should the Pac-12 or Big 12 come calling. They are committed for the next two years.

When asked if the Mountain West had staved off any defections or raids, she said, “I mean today, yeah. Tomorrow? Who knows, right? It’s constantly changing, but I really feel good about where we are as a league and keeping San Diego State for this year. And even if it’s just another year, that’s just good for (the conference).”

The Aztecs are the conference power in basketball and earlier this year made the national championship game before losing to UConn. They also are usually one of the top contenders for the league football title, having gone at least .500 for 13 consecutive seasons, posting winning records 12 of those years.

“Based on what they did in basketball this year and what they’ve done in football over the years, they’re good for the conference,” UNLV athletic director Erick Harper said. “For us, selfishly, when they come here, our crowds are better whether it’s football or basketball.”

San Diego State President Adela de la Torre wrote a letter last month that the university intended to resign from the conference, but asked for a one-month extension because the exit fee would have roughly doubled to about $34 million. The Aztecs didn’t have an invitation from the Pac-12, though that league is believed to have San Diego State on its expansion list with USC and UCLA leaving after this year for the Big Ten.

The Pac-12 is trying to get its media-rights deal finalized before considering expansion, and reports this week said the conference will not announce a new contract by Friday’s football media day.

San Diego State and the Mountain West went back-and-forth after de la Torre’s letter. Though the Aztecs insisted they weren’t leaving the conference, the Mountain West took a hard-line stance with one of the league’s founding institutions.

That posture softened considerably this week, and Nevarez said her impression is the other conference schools are ready to move on.

“I think from my perspective, it’s pretty pragmatic,” she said. “We know we’re better with them in the league, but we know each of them on their own campus are having to look out for their best interests.”

Fresno State athletic director Terry Tumey agreed it’s time to look forward, and he said he was particularly excited to keep San Diego State because it is a fellow member of the California State University system.

“If you’re serving your institution well, you’re going to always look at all options and we all recognize that,” Tumey said. “Would you have thought three years ago that you would see UCLA and USC being in the Big Ten or you would see BYU miraculously all of a sudden now in the Big 12? Houston, who had been basically exiled by Oklahoma and Texas for years, they’ve always should have been in the Big 12.

“It’s just a different world.”

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