With contributing writer Anthony Millican.
Watching and reading about San Diego State University’s potential exit from the Mountain West Conference calls to mind Joe Strummer and Mick Jones on The Clash’s classic 80’s song, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
Did SDSU recently inform its current conference brethren it was leaving for greener pastures or did it merely pose a question or two to gain clarity in possibly making a decision sometime in the future?
“If I go there will be trouble/And if I stay it will be double.”
Reports indicate SDSU sent the MWC a letter asking for an extension on the June 30 deadline for leaving the conference and wondered if the league might allow the university to pay the exit fee in installments.
MWC leaders interpreted the communication as the Aztecs indicating they plan to leave the conference, triggering it to initiate the process of unceremoniously showing SDSU the door.
With still no formal offer from another conference, Aztecs fans are left to wonder if their beloved school is staying or going.
“It’s always tease, tease, tease/You’re happy when I’m on my knees.”
So, why would SDSU leadership fire off a letter referencing an exit from the conference before it had an invitation from a more prestigious suitor? Money.
As the Union-Tribune’s Mark Zeigler has reported, Mountain West bylaws require an exit fee of three times the average annual payout per school, or roughly $17 million.
This is if you provide one-year notification by June 30—which doubles after that date. SDSU was facing the negotiations equivalent of a shot clock violation.
It would spend the upcoming 2023-24 season in the Mountain West and then leave in 2024-25 for a $17 million exit fee. It could still depart after June 30, but it would cost $34 million for 2024-25 or they’d have to wait until 2025-26 for $17 million.
SDSU got its shot off, but we’re still watching it circle the rim.
Another possible explanation is this is simply the next step in an involved, oftentimes convoluted, process. Leaving one conference to head to another rarely happens without a variety of fits and starts.
As one of our SDSU alumni friends suggested this week, perhaps San Diego State sought to begin negotiations with the conference without formally entering into negotiations. State’s letter initiates conversation and puts the conference on notice.
Additionally, the letter demonstrates SDSU’s willingness to explore all options before making one of the most significant decisions facing the university in decades.
What long-time Aztecs supporters worry about, since it’s such a big part of our history, is will the opportunity many have longed for – a chance to play in a prominent athletic conference – again escape SDSU’s grasp?
The chance to compete at an elite level seems well within reach and yet as distant as ever without a firm offer on the table.
What exactly would SDSU be joining in the Pac-12? All winter, media reports consistently referred to the Pac-12 as an embattled conference. Some speculated about the possible demise of the conference. Consider that if the Four Corners schools—Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah—were to bolt to the Big 12 as rumored, what’s left for the Pac-12 to tout?
Oregon and Washington would surely follow out the door. So the talk of a Pac-12 demise has only grown now that we are into summer, with college analyst Paul Finebaum the latest addition to the chorus of those doubting the Pac-12 will survive.
It really is all about the Benjamins. Last October, the Big 12 jumped the Pac-12 in line for a media rights deal, negotiating a new six-year deal with ESPN and Fox worth $2.3 billion. With no media rights deal in hand, what leverage does the Pac-12 have to offer?
So as long-suffering Aztecs fans, not to mention long-suffering San Diego sports fans, it figures our gleaming new Snapdragon Stadium could be left with games in a conference no one wants to see.
The fear is the Red and Black will be crooning another tune by The Clash.
“The voices in your head are calling/Stop wasting your time, there’s nothing coming/Only a fool would think someone could save you.” – Clampdown
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