San Diego State may want to remain in the Mountain West after all, but the feeling apparently isn’t mutual.
The Mountain West insisted in a series of letters last week that SDSU formally announced it was leaving the conference and said it is going to withhold a $6.6 million payment as the first installation of an exit fee, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The move is the latest in what has been a chaotic few weeks for SDSU and the Mountain West. The university told the Mountain West last month that it “intends to resign” from the conference next summer. It did so before July 1, too, in order to cut an exit fee down from nearly $34 million to about $17 million.
But, despite those intentions to leave, SDSU apparently didn’t have any plans for where to go. The school also asked the Mountain West for an extension on the June 30 deadline, something the conference denied.
So on Friday before the deadline, SDSU informed the conference that it wasn’t going to withdraw after all.
“We previously advised you that SDSU had not made a final determination as to whether to resign from the Mountain West Conference,” SDSU president Adela de la Torre wrote to the conference, via the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I am pleased to advise you that SDSU has decided to remain in the Mountain West Conference and therefore will not be resigning at this time.”
But a day later, the Mountain West rejected that claim. According to the conference, SDSU has withdrawn formally and owes a nearly $17 million exit fee. So, “in connection with our receipt of the SDSU Notice of Resignation,” the Mountain West is withholding a more than $6.6 million payment that was due to the school this week as the first part of that exit fee.
Lawyers from both sides are “actively involved in the issue,” per the Union-Tribune. SDSU’s status in the Mountain West is going to be discussed at a board of directors meeting July 17, when the school could be reinstated officially. As SDSU initially said it was going to leave the conference, de la Torre was removed from the board and won’t be at that meeting.
If SDSU were to leave the Mountain West next summer, the Pac-12 would make sense for a landing spot. The Pac-12 is still searching for a new media rights deal and has yet to find a replacement for UCLA and USC, which are leaving for the Big Ten next summer. SDSU would allow the Pac-12 to keep a foothold in the Southern California market, too. The Big 12 could also work, as it may continue to expand in the future. Neither conference, however, seems to have actually made a move to bring SDSU in.
The Aztecs men’s basketball team is fresh off a run to the national championship game in April, when it fell to UConn. The football team has gone at least .500 for 13 straight seasons. The Mountain West’s current media rights deal runs through 2025-26, and both Fox and CBS have rights to football games. Each school receives $4 million annually as part of that deal. By comparison, Pac-12 schools receive about $30 million a year and Big 12 schools receive nearly $32 million per year.
Clearly, the fight over San Diego State's future is far from over.