Stephan Teodosescu
steodosescu@mustangdaily.net

On the heels of Boise State’s Dec. 31 decision to spurn membership in the Big West Conference, San Diego State announced this past Wednesday that it would do the same.

Both schools originally announced plans to join the Big West in all sports except for football and move their Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) football programs to the Big East Conference next year. But after negotiations with the member schools and conferences involved, both Boise State and San Diego State decided to stay in the Mountain West Conference for all sports come next season.

“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,” San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman and San Diego State University Director of Athletics Jim Sterk said in a joint statement last week. “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.”

For Cal Poly and the rest of the Big West, the decision means the conference will be reduced to a total of nine schools once Pacific — the lone private member institution in the Big West — exits this summer to join the West Coast Conference.

Both Boise State and San Diego State joined the Big East as football-only members because of potential lucrative television deals and an automatic Bowl Championship Series bid, but after future membership of the conference appeared to dwindle in the past few months with the departure of many marquee programs, both universities looked to retreat back to the Mountain West, according to ESPN.com.

Despite not spending a single day in the conference, San Diego State will be forced to pay the Big West a $1.5 million exit fee while Boise State will be helped by Mountain West to pay up to $3 million in exit fees to both the Big East and Big West.

But even with the loss of two programs that could have elevated the prominence of the league, the Big West was not hurt by the decisions, according to conference commissioner Dennis Farrell.

“Conferences expand for one of two reasons,” Farrell said. “One is for survival and the other is for opportunity. And the Big West Conference today is in that advantageous position of being able to examine all opportunities and not be forced to make expansion decisions based on survival.”

Cal Poly athletic director Don Oberhelman agreed with Farrell’s view that the addition of the two top tier schools would have helped the Big West’s stature among the NCAA conference landscape, but he believes Cal Poly’s current league is still better than others in many sports.

“You can argue that the Big West is a better conference than the Mountain West across the board with the exception of men’s basketball,” he said.

The biggest loss the Big West suffered in this realignment process was the likelihood that the addition of the two schools would offer the conference an opportunity to give two teams, instead of one, an automatic bid to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in March, Oberhelman said.

“To grow we need to get out of that (one-bid format),” he said. “We need to be greater than a one-bid league and I think San Diego State gave us a tremendous opportunity to do that.”

San Diego State, a perennial contender in the sport, is currently 14-4 and ranked 25th in the USA Today Coaches Poll while Boise State is having a breakout year for its program as it sits at 13-4 overall.

Playing programs like those on a regular basis would have offered Cal Poly exposure that it hasn’t seen since joining Division I. On top of traveling to play in front of large crowds at San Diego State and Boise State — each team plays in arenas with a 12,000-plus capacity for basketball — those teams likely would have made noise when traveling to San Luis Obispo.

“I do think it would have generated a little bit more interest when Boise State and San Diego State would have come here, particularly for basketball, volleyball and a few other sports,” Oberhelman said.

But while Cal Poly men’s basketball head coach Joe Callero said he was disappointed that his squad wouldn’t face off against these top teams as conference opponents, he never fully confided in those schools joining the league.

“I never really celebrated the fact that San Diego State was joining,” Callero said. “Until you’re actually playing those guys you just kind of go, ‘We’ll see how that pans out.’ Everything is in constant movement now. It’s a state of affairs that we haven’t seen in college athletics in 50 years.”

The Big West added its 10th member last summer when Hawaii jumped on board, but the conference will resume its pre-2012 status as a nine-school league. As of July 1, 2013 Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara and Hawaii will be the only conference members.

Farrell said there are no plans to expand the Big West, although he wouldn’t be opposed to the idea in the future.

“I think they would have helped elevate the stature of the conference, but that aside I still think we’re heading in the right direction,” Farrell said.

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