A year ago to the day that UCLA and USC announced their intentions to leave the Pac-12 and head to the Big Ten, one of their potential replacements made it official that it would not be joining the Pac-12, at least for the time being.

On Friday, San Diego State reportedly alerted the Mountain West Conference that it would be remaining in the league after sending a letter to the conference just 18 days ago announcing its intentions to resign.

This about face leaves egg on the faces of two institutions, one that was riding a wave of good graces and one that sorely, sorely needed any positive news. Fresh off a program-first NCAA men’s basketball title game appearance, San Diego State trudges back to the Mountain West with its tail between its legs, while the Pac-12 continues to be Charlie Brown, forever having its football swiped away just as it was about to kick.

This doesn’t mean that a deal won’t get done at some point, but for now, it’s a clear missed opportunity for both parties.

And, though San Diego State is the one crawling back, the Pac-12 is in a particularly bad spot.

Does the Big 12 now come in and make a pitch for the Aztecs, who’ve quickly ascended into a top-flight athletics department and a budding top-tier research institution? That would certainly be one way to expand to the Pacific time zone.

Does a media deal that was reportedly near the finish line get pushed back even further?

Does the Mountain West put stipulations on San Diego State’s return, rendering another eminent move moot? Does it outright reject SDSU’s return after the conference reportedly accepted the school’s resignation and reportedly instituted the removal of SDSU president Adela de la Torre from the league’s board of directors and withheld payments to the school in order to put toward the exit fee, according to ESPN’s Pete Thamel.

Once more, the Pac-12 is in a pickle, and it’s getting pretty sour.


It’s almost crazy to think about, but this is not the first time San Diego State has found itself in this position.

In Dec. 2011, under former athletic director Jim Sterk, the Aztecs announced they were leaving for the Big East as a football-only member, starting in the 2013 season. Before that season even began, the Big East fell apart, and SDSU was forced to return to the Mountain West for the first time, hat in hand.

Perhaps ill feelings still lingered when the conference made it clear that it would not offer an exception to the school, either in terms of a delay of return or in terms of exit fee, which is reportedly more than $16 million and would be almost $30 million if the program attempted to join another conference for the 2024-25 season.

But this San Diego State department is very different from the department that was set to make the Big East bi-coastal a dozen years ago.

In a stunning turnaround, the once-moribund Aztecs blossomed into one of the most successful programs in the country, from top-to-bottom. SDSU’s combined winning percentage in football and men’s basketball is the best in the country since 2010, after decades of near-dormancy.

It’s part of the vision saw a dozen years ago, when he had the bold idea to try to bounce to the Big East in the first place. That’s what SDSU athletic director John David Wicker told me when we sat down in Houston at the Final Four, as the Aztecs prepared to play — and ultimately fall to — the UConn Huskies in the championship game.

“When Jim Sterk took the job in 2010, he said, ‘This is an untapped goldmine.’” Wicker said. “You look at what Fisher had started? Basketball had started to take off. Jim said this is a place you can be successful and there are people who want to invest in the program, and you can go from there.”

But now it’s back to the drawing board for San Diego State.

And back to panic mode for the Pac-12.


You have to think that SDSU never would have made its intentions public if it didn’t think it would have a shiny new home by the end of the month. Reports had come out the a Pac-12 media rights deal, however stripped down, was imminent. Alas, Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger reported today that in a board meeting, Pac-12 presidents had been provided an update on what sources told him was “accelerated” progress on a new rights deal.

So…nothing done, and likely nothing in ink by football media day, which is just a few weeks from now.

If that’s the case, forget egg on its face. Pac-12 fans might be throwing tomatoes at league executives. That would be some press conference. You think there were fireworks last year, when George Kliavkoff’s eyes twitched as he forced smiles between lobbing grenades at both the Big 12 and the defecting Los Angeles schools? He might pull a Kendall Roy and drop a diss track this year if he’s forced to fend off prying media.

They say no news is good news, but he better have some news come media day. Or the wolves will keep coming and coming.