College Football Realignment: Rebuff of SDSU a cautionary tale

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Not all college football realignment stories have happy endings. It appears the Big 12 will recover from the exit wounds from Texas and Oklahoma. In almost the same situation for the Pac12, the exits of Southern Cal and UCLA have been debilitative. The Pac-12 is expected to survive, but with a diminished reputation, it may no longer be a ‘Power’ conference.

The cord-cutting that has led to purges by ESPN does not have a trickle-down effect on college football realignment. It has a direct effect as future media largesse may shrink, or at least cease to blossom in every new conference media deal.

After months of delay, the Pac-12 is still trying to gain a new media deal with a respectable number of games on linear broadcast. Instead, it appears the new Pac-12 or Pac-10  or Pac-XX will have most games streamed or on fringe platforms like CW or Ion. If the Pac’s media dollars do not shrink, they are not expected to grow.

The latest wrinkle is San Diego State (SDSU) may not have a conference after the 2023 season. A few weeks ago, SDSU Athletic Director, JD Wicker talked about a move to the Pac-12 or Big 12.

"One or the other is going to happen"

Instead, SDSU has so alienated the Mountain West Conference, it may have no home in 2024. As reported by Dennis Dodd of CBS,

"Though SDSU once believed the Pac-12 and Big 12 were interested in adding it to their respective conferences, the Big 12 has little interest in bringing SDSU aboard, sources indicated to CBS Sports this week. This despite Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark’s stated intent to expand his league to the West Coast."

The Mountain West is now withholding a $6.6M distribution to SDSU, stating it will be applied to a much larger exit fee owed by the Aztecs for their exit after the 2023 season.

Plausible College Football Realignment Stories

There are two plausible background stories about the mess SDSU finds itself in. Why wouldn’t the Pac-12 jump at the chance of adding SDSU? It could be because the Aztecs have stated they would demand a conference payout equal to the Pac’s 10, not-new schools. Those 10 may insist that added schools take smaller shares, possibly as low as half.

The other possible situation is the Big 12 may be thinking it has a good chance to land two to four current Pac-12 schools and therefore does not need SDSU. In that scenario, a much lesser Pac-XX would become a ‘Group of’ conference.

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The richer conferences will continue to prosper from massive media dollars, but inside every conference how those dollars are shared will be the next college football realignment drama.