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Hold Your Horses: San Diego State University Plans to Exit Mountain West Conference

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San Diego State University (SDSU) has submitted a written notice to the Mountain West Conference (MWC) expressing its intention to resign from the conference. The letter, sent by SDSU President Adela de la Torre on June 13, requested a one-month extension due to unforeseen delays involving other collegiate athletic conferences. However, there is currently no invitation for SDSU to join a Power Five conference.

The withdrawal letter has prompted a back-and-forth between the MWC and SDSU. San Diego State subsequently informed the league that the June 13 letter was not the official notice of resignation, according to sources. SDSU must give a year’s notice to withdraw, with an exit fee of nearly $16.5 million. If the university waits past June 30, 2022, the fee doubles to nearly $34 million.

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While SDSU has long been linked to the Pac-12, there has been no formal invitation for the university to join the league. The timeline for that has been linked to either the Pac-12’s television deal or the departure of a Pac-12 member. According to sources, SDSU is exploring all options if it does get to June 30 and the Pac-12 doesn’t have a television deal done.

The university has also been part of the Big 12’s realignment exploration. However, sources say neither side has prioritized the other to this point. “SDSU is exploring all of the options and asking all the questions,” according to a source. “The intention of the June 13 letter wasn’t that San Diego State is exiting.”

In addition to the one-month extension requested in the first letter SDSU wrote to the MWC, it also asked the league to be open to discussing the exit fee. SDSU mentioned the income the Aztecs have generated for the MWC through the NCAA basketball tournament, which it won’t see any of if it leaves the league. The university also asked that a four-year installment plan be considered for paying the exit fee.

The MWC responded to SDSU and informed the university in a June 14 letter that the conference had accepted the letter of withdrawal and that the consequences of withdrawing had begun. Those include that de la Torre’s seat on the MWC board of directors is being pulled and that the league’s policies on financial obligation tied to withdrawal are going to be withheld. This prompted another exchange from SDSU to clarify that the June 13 letter was not an official resignation, just a request for a month extension. It also asked that no payments should be withheld, which is the league’s practice to apply to the exit fee.

According to a Mountain West source briefed on the exchange, “They’re trying to find out what we’re willing to do. They want to see if the Mountain West Conference is going to handle this nicely. Well, that’s not going to happen. Everyone wants to find the best financial path for themselves.”

The situation is still unclear, and there are many moving pieces. Will SDSU join a Power Five conference, such as the Pac-12, or will it stay in the MWC? Only time will tell.

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