COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 12 San Jose State at San Diego State
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Back in the day of conference realignment -- you know, a month ago -- San Diego State had options. With a new stadium, a consistent football program and miracle run to the Final Four, the school was all but a certainty for a conference upgrade.

If not the Pac-12, then perhaps the Big 12. In fact, SDSU athletic director JD Wicker nearly said those exact words during the high times of his school's conference considerations.

"One or the other is going to happen," Wicker told The Athletic in April of a move to the Pac-12 or Big 12.

Now? Maybe neither.

The Mountain West has basically taken up San Diego State on its intent to depart the league as stated in a June 13 letter to the conference. A flurry of subsequent back-and-forth letters has ended -- for now -- with the MWC withholding SDSU's revenue distribution this year ($6.6 million) as part of an exit fee it believes it deserves.

San Diego State still considers itself a member of Mountain West. The conference says SDSU is out as of July 1, 2024. Yikes.

It gets worse ... at least for San Diego State.

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.

Rather, the Big 12's current expansion focus continues to be on UConn and any Pac-12 schools that may be shaken loose once it has a media rights deal to pitch to its membership.

Meanwhile, San Diego State continues to wait. The Pac-12 remains the best option for the Aztecs. The Big 12 was at least previously interested dating back to a tour of the campus taken by former commissioner Bob Bowlsby before he left office at the end of last year, sources told CBS Sports.

Now? SDSU is not only hearing crickets, it's sitting in limbo.

Wicker has indicated from the beginning that his school will deserve a full conference share wherever it goes. That would have been $31.7 million as currently distributed by the Big 12. That league is not even giving full shares to its four newest additions as BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF are only receiving $18 million in 2023 and $19 million in 2024 as they get accustomed to the Big 12.

Of course, nothing can be fully settled until the Pac-12 lands a media rights deal. Without it, there is no idea what a full share would be for SDSU.

The school doesn't appear to have much leverage -- let alone a home -- at the moment. It wants to stay in the MWC at least in the short term given the uncertainty facing the Pac-12, but its status is up in the air. Conference bylaws require one-year notice for a school to leave. The MWC says -- based on that June 13 correspondence -- it considers the Aztecs out of the league beginning July 1, 2024. On June 30, the SDSU president Dr. Adela de la Torre wrote commissioner Gloria Nevarez stating she was "pleased" to announce the school had "decided to remain" in the Mountain West.

There is a meeting of MWC presidents on July 17 with SDSU's status expected to be discussed at that time. As of now, the school would have to wait at least another year to leave the Mountain West without paying the doubled $34 million exit fee. Wicker is on record as saying his school cannot afford that number.

A trip to court may be the next step. That will get messy and expensive. Lawsuits like these are generally settled when legal fees threaten to approach the sum at stake. In that sense, it doesn't make much financial sense to file a lawsuit ... bBut a lack of sense may have gotten us to this point.

Historically, court battles are avoided in these situations and the sides settle for 60% to 65% of the original number. That's what happened when Texas and Oklahoma negotiated to get out of the Big 12 a year early.

"My guess would be they'll let things cool down and [the MWC will] take [SDSU] back," Arizona president Robert Robbins said. "[SDSU] can't get there without a [Pac-12] deal."

If there was a Pac-12 deal, San Diego State would more than likely be way down the road as a future league member. However, the conference is now inside a year before its current deal expires with ESPN and Fox. Industry sources continue to tell CBS Sports there is scant interest from the four major linear giants in the Pac-12.

That assertion continues to confuse industry experts who wonder where the Pac-12's revenue and visibility is going to come from. Coaches and ADs are concerned that a deal heavy on streaming broadcasts may impact recruiting. A linear cable window may be closing for the Pac-12 with NBCUniversal (NBC, USA Network) if WWE and NASCAR re-p with the network in deals that are expiring in the near future.

USA Network has a long history of sports production that goes back to the 1980s with college football.

"I think they're in a tough spot," WWE CEO Nick Khan said of the Pac-12 in a widely referenced March podcast.

A report last week stated Pac-12 presidents were updated on a new media right deal that includes "linear concepts." Sources told CBS Sports in May the Pac-12 is confident on a deal with a significant linear (broadcast/cable) presence.

"There are still just discussions. Nothing definitive, that's for sure," Robbins told CBS Sports. "I think that means the narrative [that] it's going to be an all-streaming deal … is ridiculous."