Boise State is already headed back to the Mountain West, leaving the Aztecs stranded on the West Coast in football among a scattering of future Big East football schools in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, North Carolina and Louisiana.
Football and finances will determine the decision, but the hierarchy should seriously consider men's basketball in this equation. And, no offense to the Big West, but the Aztecs need to stay put.
I applauded the Big West for securing San Diego State for 2013-14 and beyond when the Aztecs apparently had locked in their football future in the Big East. But now with that league in a tenuous position, it seems like Boise State made the right move for its football program. The Broncos won't go anywhere, received favored status in the league and will be a perennial contender if not favorite in the conference.
The basketball program is on firm footing now, too, with Leon Rice putting the Broncos in a legitimate position for an at-large berth with two really nice road wins (Creighton, Wyoming) and a near-miss at Michigan State.
The Aztecs need to figure out a way to make this work and stay in the Mountain West. A decision is due by Jan. 31 from both the MWC and SDSU. The trip to Dallas is seen as a fact-finding mission before a final move is made.
All you had to do was flip back and forth Wednesday night to see the difference for the Aztecs. San Diego State was at Fresno State as Jamaal Franklin put on a display with 20 points, 18 rebounds and a ridiculous dunk contest slam where he followed his own throw off the backboard for a flush. The Aztecs won by three.
On the same evening, the Mountain West had a marquee matchup between UNLV and New Mexico in front of a sold-out and rocking Pit. The game on CBS Sports Network was a big-time event, just as good as the atmosphere at any high-major, top-25 game.
Meanwhile on ESPNU, Hawaii was at UC Irvine in a competitive Big West affair. But the gym was hardly full and the environment clearly a notch below.
Look, San Diego State will continue to have Viejas Arena as a destination arena. But losing the marquee opponents could take its toll. Longtime coach Steve Fisher has worked tirelessly to get the Aztecs the national credibility it now has across the country. If SDSU leaves, it will dominate the Big West much as UNLV did during the late 1980s and early '90s.
If SDSU stays, then it guarantees it will be in a conference that will be a top-seven league for the foreseeable future with programs like UNLV and New Mexico as anchors and now surging programs like Colorado State, Wyoming and Boise State. Oh, and the league adds Utah State next season, easily one of the most consistent programs in the West that usually fails to get the proper respect nationally but always seems to win.
Fisher can't say what his preference is, but it's obvious. He's being a good soldier. He is following the script. But he may need to let his voice be heard. Football drives the budget, but the men's basketball team has put the school back on the map. Now, San Diego State has a chance to stay in the MWC. Letting this opportunity go would be a major mistake and would run the risk of setting back all of the credibility the program has built.
The Aztecs have helped make the Mountain West what it is the past few seasons. There is no overwhelming reason, other than gambling on unknown financial rewards, to leave.