Sources: SDSU tells Mtn. West of exit intentions

San Diego State gave the Mountain West written notice this week that the school “intends to resign from the Mountain West Conference,” sources told ESPN.

In a letter, the school asked the Mountain West for a “one-month extension given unforeseen delays involving other collegiate athletic conferences beyond our control.” As of now, there does not appear to be an invitation to San Diego State from a Power 5 conference.

The withdrawal letter, which came from San Diego State president Adela de la Torre on Tuesday, brought complexities and prompted a tense back-and-forth between the league and the school. SDSU subsequently informed the league that the letter was “not the official notice of resignation,” according to sources.

San Diego State would need to give a year of notice to withdraw next June. If it waits past June 30, the exit fee it would owe jumps from nearly $16.5 million to nearly $34 million.

SDSU has long been linked to the Pac-12, which is in the midst of a protracted process of landing a television contract. There has been no formal invitation for the school to join the league, and the timeline for such a move has been linked to either the Pac-12’s television deal or the departure of a Pac-12 member. “San Diego State does not have an offer from the Pac-12,” according to a source.

San Diego State is attempting to explore all options if the Pac-12 doesn’t get a TV deal done by June 30, according to a source.

The school has also been part of the Big 12’s realignment exploration, and there have been conversations, per a source. But sources say neither side has prioritized the other to this point.

“SDSU is exploring all of the options and asking all the questions,” the source said. “The intention of the June 13 letter wasn’t that San Diego State is exiting.”

Along with the one-month extension requested in Tuesday’s letter, the school also asked the league to consider discussing the exit fee. SDSU noted the income the Aztecs have generated for the Mountain West through the NCAA basketball tournament — estimated this March to be at least $10 million — none of which it see if it leaves the league.

San Diego State requested that a four-year installment plan be considered for the exit fee. As of now, SDSU would have to pay the fee by June 2024, which would include the league withholding payment of its distribution to the school.

The Mountain West responded, informing the school in a letter Wednesday that the conference had accepted the letter of withdrawal and that the consequences of the move had begun. Those include that de la Torre’s seat on the MW board of directors is being pulled and that under league policies, its financial obligation tied to withdrawal will be withheld.

That prompted another communication from San Diego State to clarify that the June 13 letter was not an official resignation, just a request for an extension. It also asked that no payments be withheld. Mountain West schools are expecting a check for nearly $6 million in the upcoming weeks.

“They’re trying to find out what we’re willing to do,” a Mountain West source briefed on the exchange said. “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, and it’s clunky.”

The Mountain West Conference held a call with athletic directors Thursday afternoon that detailed the back-and-forth between the league and San Diego State. The news didn’t come as a surprise, as SDSU athletic director J.D. Wicker has spoken openly about switching leagues.

Wicker told ESPN in March that SDSU would be “ready to step into a power conference.” He told CBS in January that the Pac-12 would want to give SDSU a full share of the media revenue to prevent the school from going to the Big 12 and having that league recruiting in the Pac-12’s backyard.

San Diego State has been in the Mountain West since 1999 and is arguably its top overall athletic department. SDSU reached the NCAA tournament title game in men’s basketball this year and the football program has a new $300 million stadium. The football Aztecs have won 10 or more games five times since 2015.

This isn’t the first time that San Diego State has attempted to leave the Mountain West. According to a 2011 announcement, San Diego State agreed to join the Big East as a football-only member starting in July 2013. In January 2013, the Mountain West presidents voted to allow San Diego State to return all sports to the league.

With USC and UCLA moving to the Big Ten in 2024, San Diego State’s allure has increased for leagues, as the school offers a toehold in the Southern California market.

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