Wilner – Pac-12 expansion: SDSU prepares to exit the MW (maybe) with an unknown destination (perhaps)

San Diego State dancers perform on the court during the second half of a second-round college basketball game against Furman in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

San Diego State has commenced the process of withdrawing from the Mountain West, signaling that the Pac-12 could be close to wrapping up its media rights negotiations and settling the expansion issue.

Or maybe not. The situation remains a bit murky despite the latest development.

The Aztecs face a June 30 deadline to formally resign from the MW — any later and the $17 million (approximate) exit fee would double.

“We can’t pay the (extra) amount,” athletic director JD Wicker told the San Diego Union-Tribune last month.

Meanwhile, ESPN reported Friday that the university informed the MW in writing that it “intends” to resign, which isn’t the same as an official notice of withdrawal. Additionally, SDSU asked for a one-month extension on the deadline.

There is no indication which conference the Aztecs plan to join — they have been linked to the Big 12 as well as the Pac-12 — and the option to remain in the MW seemingly exists.

However, the Aztecs would prefer to join the Pac-12 because of the geographical and institutional alignment, according to sources. (Every Big 12 school except Brigham Young is located in the Eastern and Central Time Zones.)

Their decision to start the withdrawal process from the MW makes sense when cast against the Pac-12’s timeline for determining the future structure of the conference.

Although there is no formal date for the 10 continuing schools to agree on a media rights deal and decide whether to expand, an informal deadline exists: The Pac-12’s preseason football media event on July 21 in Las Vegas.

If the media negotiations are unresolved at that point, the issue will divert attention from the coaches and players in attendance.

The headlines would focus on the Pac-12’s fragile future, not the array of Heisman Trophy candidates and College Football Playoff contenders.

The Aztecs have long been considered a top target for the Pac-12 on multiple fronts:

— Their geography gives the conference a campus in the greater Southern California region, which is essential for recruiting.

— Their academic profile is improving thanks to a change in California education law that allows SDSU to independently award doctorates in public health.

— The football program is competitive, with a series of head-to-head victories over the Pac-12 in recent years.

— The men’s basketball team just reached the NCAA championship game.

— The media market is No. 27 nationally, according to Nielsen data for 2021.

What’s more, the addition of two schools — SMU is also high on the Pac-12’s list, in part because of the Dallas market — would increase the inventory of football games available for the conference to sell.

With 10 schools, the Pac-12 would have approximately 65 home dates available for its media partners.

With 12 schools, it would have about 80.

Each game is worth several million dollars, depending on the network and broadcast window.

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