SDSU Athletics

An initiative led by San Diego State to essentially create a new conference that would have sought "Power Five" designation in the aftermath of radical conference realignment failed this week, sources tell CBS Sports.

SDSU president Adela de la Torre was leading a push to assemble what would have amounted to a breakaway of the best schools from the Mountain West and American conferences along with some combination of Pac-12 leftovers California, Stanford, Oregon State and Washington State, sources said.

However, the idea died after Monday night Mountain West presidents held a call that ended with the leadership showing unity.

"Everything that is out there is from San Diego State," a Mountain West source said Monday of the breakaway attempt. "They've been wanting to be part of the Pac-12 forever. They have a hope and dream that they can take the best of us, the best of some other leagues, re-form and keep, honestly, the [College Football Playoff] designation, reap the 10s of millions of dollars in distributions and resurrect the Autonomous Five in the West."

The development could clear the way for Oregon State and Washington State to join the MWC, industry sources tell CBS Sports. The AAC has expressed an interest in the schools as well.

SDSU's de la Torre did not return a request for comment; however, athletic director JD Wicker later denied the program's involvement in a statement to CBS Sports.

"SDSU has been actively involved in conference realignment discussions before and after the latest round of Pac-12 defections. However, SDSU has not sought to create a new conference or seek A5 status for a new conference," Wicker said. "SDSU has had no communication with the American Athletic Conference, nor any of its member institutions. SDSU continues to be an active participant with the Mountain West Conference as the conference assesses the best path forward during this turbulent time in our industry."

The next round of realignment seems to be on hold until the fate of Cal and Stanford in the ACC is decided. CBS Sports reported Monday both schools were being considered by the ACC on a preliminary basis. The academic giants represent half of the Pac-12 leftovers. 

ACC athletic directors met Monday and had another call scheduled for Tuesday to consider Cal and Stanford. The conference will also consider expansion with SMU, according to multiple reports.

It's not clear how any combination of leftover schools would have obtained "Power Five" designation in a new conference. That label exists formally in the NCAA constitution, which gives weighted voting rights to the "Autonomous Five." The CFP gives equal revenue shares (currently $80 million each) to the SEC, Big 12, ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 annually.

Now a four-member league, the Pac-12 is in danger of losing that designation.

"Does it make sense to take the best of the American, remaining Pac and best of the Mountain West and create a new conference that [would] potentially fight for A5 designation? In general, I think it does," an industry source said. "I just am not sure what value that would bring from a network standpoint. ESPN and Fox … have already spent their money."

Rightsholders spent the weekend evaluating the worth of all four remaining Pac-12 schools potentially joining the Mountain West. There are conference composition clauses in every media rights contract, but rarely does 40% of a Power Five league become available.

One roadblock to forming a new league is the Mountain West's exit fees. For any school to leave and join a new league in time for the 2024 season, it would have cost $34 million per program. Those exit fees would go away if the MWC "dissolved," which would require nine of 12 schools to exit.

The Mountain West has three years left on its media rights deal with CBS and Fox. In 2020, the MWC signed a six-year, $270 million contract -- approximately $4 million annually per school. Cal, Stanford, OSU and WSU will earn nearly $21 million in the final year of the Pac-12's current contract, which expires after the 2023-24 season.