SAN DIEGO — San Diego State University ditched plans for its football team to join the Big East Conference and to shift most of its other sports to the Big West, deciding Wednesday to stick with the Mountain West Conference.
The decision came before any SDSU team played in the Big East or Big West.
The school will pay a $1.5 million exit fee to the Big West Conference. Nothing is owed to the Big East.
In December 2011, SDSU President Elliot Hirshman announced that the Aztecs would play in the Big East, lured by the prospect of getting at least $6 million annually in television money, far in excess of what the school now gets.
But Big East Conference leaders never were able to strike a television deal amid the departure of the University of Louisville and Rutgers University. Boise State University, which went to the Big East, announced its return to the Mountain West Conference last month.
Hirshman and athletic director Jim Sterk attended a Big East meeting on Friday in Dallas, but were not provided any revenue details, according to U-T San Diego.
“After substantial discussion and consideration of a broad range of factors, San Diego State University will be continuing as a full member of the Mountain West Conference in July 2013,” Hirshman and Sterk said in a joint statement.
“We have the deepest respect for our colleagues in the Mountain West, Big East and Big West conferences with whom we have worked collaboratively during the period of conference realignment. We are optimistic about the future of San Diego State University’s athletic programs and the prospect of building on our university’s rich tradition of intercollegiate athletics.”
The decision ends a long-running debate by fans over whether the original move was a wise one. While recognizing a decline in fan interest in MW opponents and a need to increase revenue for football, SDSU boosters were distressed over sending their nationally ranked men’s basketball program to the Big West.
The Mountain West, of which SDSU is a charter member, is ranked as the third-best men’s basketball conference in the nation by realtimerpi.com, while the Big West is 19th.
The decision by Hirshman and Sterk to remain in the MW came just hours before the Aztecs host UNLV in a key men’s hoops matchup at Viejas Arena.