Pac-12 University Presidents Approve Next Steps In SDSU and SMU Expansion Process

Pac-12 University Presidents Approve Next Steps In SDSU and SMU Expansion Process

The Aztecs and Mustangs edge closer to Power 5 integration.

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Fun fact: SMU’s mustang, Peruna, is the only mascot to have killed another mascot, after kicking Fordham’s ram in 1934.

San Francisco, CA-  The college sports world has watched closely as Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff bobbles a new conference network agreement.  He has been in hot pursuit of a deal since last July, and it is not yet final. His attention has been drawn in several directions as the gravity of UCLA and USC chasing dollars to the Big Ten has set in. Meanwhile, the BIG 12 continuously threatens to pillage his prestigious conference.

San Jose Mercury News sportswriter Jon Wilner, known as the apex Pac-12 conference insider, recently reported in his Mercury News article the latest status of conference expansion for key entrants San Diego State and Southern Methodist University.

In his article, Wilner reported the following update:

“University presidents discussed SMU and San Diego State as expansion candidates during a meeting last week and approved commissioner George Kliavkoff taking the next step in the complicated process of adding membership, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting.

Sources emphasized that the approval was informal in nature — the presidents did not vote to add specific schools — but expansion is viewed as highly likely.”

Kliavkoff was spotted recently at a SMU basketball game hospitality suite, and was not apparently concerned with the optics.  It’s well documented that Kliavkoff met with SDSU Athletic Director J.D. Wicker and President Adela De La Torre.

The three-phases for expansion involve:

  • New media rights contract with network/streaming partners;

  • Schools must agree to sign rights to the conference,

  • Formal invitations must be extended to expansion candidates,

Under Pac-12 bylaws, conference expansion requires a three-fourths vote of the presidents, meaning eight of the 10 schools would have to approve any new members. Naturally, USC and UCLA will not participate in expansion proceedings during their remaining 18 months in the conference.

SMU and San Diego State are the clear candidates having moved far beyond the initial group of universities under consideration, and at least San Diego State stands out as the most strategically advantageous candidate.  It’s highly probable that neither entrant would receive full revenue shares, at least initially, according to sources, and in accordance with tradition.  It is undisputed that each candidate has a lot to offer in its own right.

It’s important to note that in a 10-team conference versus a 12-team league, the Pac-12 would have approximately 65 games instead of 78 available, and this would equate to a less desirable package, so expansion concurrently with (not after) a media rights deal is looking more and more strategically vital.

Wilner’s Mercury News article also featured the following description of  primary expansion candidates:


Location: San Diego
Type: Public
Undergraduate enrollment: 36,000 (approx.)
Endowment: $350 million (approx.)
Research level: R2 (second-highest designation)
U.S. News ranking: 151st in national universities
Media market: 1.13 million homes (per Nielsen/2021 DMA)
Conference: Mountain West
Presidential fact: SDSU president Adela de la Torre grew up in the Bay Area and owns three degrees from Cal.
School fact: Last year, California passed a law allowing California State Universities to offer independent doctorates in Public Health, an important step for CSU campuses to bolster their academic bona fides. (Previously, CSUs were allowed to confer doctorates only in partnership with private colleges or University of California schools.) The change is viewed as an important step for SDSU in becoming an R1 research school.

Football facts: SDSU is a founding member of the Mountain West in 1998. The Aztecs have won at least 10 games in five of the past six seasons (excluding 2020) and have regularly beaten Pac-12 opponents under coaches Rocky Long and Brady Hoke. SDSU football alumni include Marshall Faulk and Joe Gibbs. In 2022, the Aztecs opened Snapdragon Stadium, which has a capacity of 35,000 but can expand to hold 55,000.

(Endowment source: National Association of College and University Business Officers)


Location: Dallas
Type: Private
Undergraduate enrollment: 6,800 (approx.)
Endowment: $2.0 billion (approx.)
Research level: R2 (second-highest designation)
U.S. News ranking: 72nd in national universities
Media market: 2.96 million homes (per Nielsen/2021 DMA)
Conference: American Athletic
Presidential fact: SMU president Gerald Turner is a former chair of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.
School fact:
 SMU is affiliated with the United Methodist Church (UMC) but, in 2019, moved to “update its governance documents to make it clear that SMU is solely maintained and controlled by its Board as the ultimate authority for the University,” according to a statement from Turner. The UMC fought the move, but a Dallas judge ruled in favor of SMU two years later.
Football facts: SMU has a strong football history but is the only school to receive the death penalty from the NCAA (in the late 1980s). The list of famous football alumni includes Doak Walker, Don Meredith and Eric Dickerson. Since the collapse of the Southwest Conference, the Mustangs have been members of the WAC, Conference USA and the American. They struggled for traction but won 10 games in 2019 (under Sonny Dykes) and have been bowl-eligible for four consecutive years.

(Endowment source: SMU investments office)

While SDSU enables a continuation of Southern California interest and Pac-12 recruitment, SMU opens up an untapped new market in the Texas metropolis of Dallas.  A flag planted in Texas could lead to exploration of additional expansion potential in the region.

In the future, it is certainly possible that UCLA and/or USC might discover that BIG Ten travel requirements are long-term undesirable.

For today, San Diego State and Southern Methodist University have managed to make the grade, and are increasingly garnering the support they require by current Pac-12 university members, and expansion appears to be certain.

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Story originally appeared on Mountain West Wire