San Diego State to remain in Mountain West

San Diego State’s brief flirtation with both the Big West and the Big East has officially ended.

Although SDSU was expected to join the Big West next season and join the Big East for football only, the school issued a statement on Wednesday explaining its decision to remain in the Mountain West, a conference in which it is a charter member.

The Mountain West didn’t hesitate to reinstate the Aztecs.

The decision was explained by university president Dr. Elliot Hirshman and athletic director Jim Sterk in a joint statement:

“After substantial discussion and consideration of a broad range of factors, San Diego State University will be continuing as a full member of the Mountain West Conference in July 2013. We have the deepest respect for our colleagues in the Mountain West, BIG East and Big West conferences with whom we have worked collaboratively during the period of conference realignment.”

San Diego State became the third school, along with Boise State and TCU,
to sign contracts to play in the Big East and change their mind before
even playing a game as a Big East member.

The Aztecs also become the 16th school to announce their departure from the Big East in the last two years.

Due to a contract clause that gave them the right to leave without paying if there was no other
team Big East member located west of the Rocky Mountains,  the Aztecs do not owe an exit fee to the Big East. They do, however, owe the Big West $1.5 million.

The decision, which has been rumored for weeks, comes on the heels of Boise State’s decision to remain with the conference.

The addition of SDSU would have been another step in the Big West’s strong effort to expand, which recently added Hawaii. Boise State also agreed to join the Big West in non-football sports before rejoining the Mountain West.

The Big West would have enjoyed a heightened profile with the addition of San Diego State in its marquee sports of volleyball and baseball. Tony Gwynn, the hall of famer and head baseball coach praised the move to the Big West when the decision was made in 2011.

However, the Big West would have enjoyed the most attention with San Diego State’s top-25 basketball team.

A big name coach in Steve Fisher and a team that is a perennial contender would have shone a significantly bigger spotlight on the Big West. Although Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara have been two formidable contenders in the conference in recent seasons, neither have been thought of as highly as the Aztecs, in the top-25 rankings or otherwise.

The conference even went out of its way to allow a 14-game conference schedule to the Aztecs, in order for them to fill in their schedule with other high-profile non-conference opponents.

“It will enhance our ability to schedule, and we’ll have to make sure we schedule intelligently,” Fisher said at the time.

While there were concerns that Fisher’s Aztecs were a Goliath and other members of the Big West a David, the analogy doesn’t apply across the board.

In baseball, San Diego State has gone 19-30 against the Big West in the past five seasons. And while much of those are Tuesday midweek contests, consider that two of those five seasons the Aztecs featured Stephen Strasburg in his collegiate prime. Only one of those seasons did San Diego State have a winning record against Big West teams, coming in 2009 when the Aztecs won the Mountain West Championship but failed to make a splash in the postseason with Strasburg losing his first and only NCAA Regional Tournament start.

While San Diego State’s entrance into the Big West would have undoubtedly brought more attention to the burgeoning basketball conference, it is far from the end of the world for the Big West. The Big West is a conference that will continue to survive and thrive with or without the Aztecs.