SDSU Athletics

Put San Diego State in the Pac-12 -- or the Big 12. It doesn't matter. The school has earned a promotion. Its athletic fortunes have never been more … fortunate. Its brand has never been brighter. It's no longer a question for suddenly the shiniest realignment jewel on the West Coast. Just deliver an entry date.

With SDSU's basketball team advancing to its first Final Four, there has been side action to the accomplishment. Basketball excellence, sure, but the 2023 NCAA Tournament run is the kind of realignment advertising you can't buy -- particularly when there may be an opening in a major conference.

At this point, the Pac-12 should be done shopping itself. But no matter what the outcome of its current media deal pursuit, if there is a major conference left on the West Coast in the end, SDSU should be a part of it.

"We've said all along we've been doing the things to prepare ourselves, so when the opportunity comes about,  we would be someone that would be looked upon favorably," Aztecs athletic director J.D. Wicker said before hopping on a plane for Houston and the Final Four. "We've been competitive. We've built the facilities. The academic metrics of the institution are awesome."

What we know for sure at this point: SDSU remains a Pac-12 expansion candidate. There's a giant hole in Southern California for the Pac-12 where USC and UCLA used to be. Do the math. CBS Sports previously reprted that Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff had toured the SDSU campus last year.

The Big 12 remains a possibility if for no other reason than commissioner Brett Yormark continuing to be aggressive in expansion -- particularly in the Pacific Time Zone. However, the Mountain West school that may have been looked down upon by the Pac-12 for years is suddenly a perfect fit for the conference.

"It's off the rails," Wicker said of the Final Four hype. "This town is totally embracing it."

What was originally planned to be one plane for fans to Houston turned out to be three. What was once a sleepy Navy town (many years ago) is ready for its national close up.

San Diego State has thought of itself as Pac-12 material for years. It has a broad-based athletic program. Football is 7-4 against Pac-12 competition since 2016. Steve Fisher arrived in 1999 and built the Aztecs into maybe not a national basketball power but something close to it.

One issue with all this wishing: There hadn't been any room. Now, recent circumstances have made the Pac-12 consider reinstalling a Southern California beach head.

Left is to decide whether another team accompanies the Aztecs or not. The Pac-12 is down to 10 schools. There is speculation SMU could link up with SDSU to make it 12 again.

"I think you could [play] with 11 teams," Arizona president Robert Robbins told CBS Sports. "There is speculation we could go with nine teams. We could go back to the Pac-8, but [that's] not ideal. You can do it with 11."

So, what's left for SDSU to make its case? Football has been bowl eligible 13 straight years. There's a sparkling new stadium. Basketball has achieved what has never been done at the school.

"We get better as the year goes on," hoops coach Brian Dutcher said. "That's just our culture. If you think you're good enough now and you can't get any better, don't get off the bus."

San Diego State has become the Rodney Terry of realignment. As the tournament advanced, it became obvious Terry had to be elevated from his interim role to full-time as Texas coach. It is equally obvious that SDSU is ready for a new, bigger, better conference.

"You're helping make this easier," Wicker told Dutcher.

The city itself has never looked cooler or more desirable adding to its label, "America's Finest City." San Diego State's place in the universe has never been more important. When USC and UCLA went to the Big Ten, Fox essentially shut out ESPN from both the Big Ten and the nation's No. 2 market in college football.

With the No. 30 TV market, San Diego isn't L.A., but it is a respectable replacement.

Wicker has trotted out a stat this week to highlight his school's candidacy: Since the 2010-11 academic year, SDSU has the best combined Division I record in football and men's basketball.  

Just getting to the Final Four is near the top of sports accomplishments in the city's history. The Chargers played in a Super Bowl, but their only championship was in the AFL in 1963. The Padres have made it to two World Series, none since 1998.

"You [potentially] start the Padres season with San Diego State cutting down the nets," Wicker said fantasizing a bit, "And San Diego State starts off [next] season with the Padres lifting the World Series trophy."

Why not fantasize? Everything else seems like mere details in this dream sequence. Any revenue share San Diego State could get from the Pac-12 or Big 12 would be more than what it currently receives from the Mountain West, $4 million per year. Pac-12 teams are currently earning $21 million per year in a deal that ends in 2024. The new Big 12 deal pays teams $31.6 million per year.

SDSU couldn't argue with getting half that total.

"We've put it out there that we would deserve a TV share based on TV metrics, our success, our investment. Why wouldn't we?" Wicker said. "If we can go win two more games …"