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San Diego State’s new home in Big West presents new issues


Mike Miller

San Diego State’s move to the Big West in everything except football became official on Monday, leaving school officials to spin the move as a win for the Aztecs.

Here’s the official line from athletic director Jim Sterk:

“The Big West is a great fit for us geographically, academically and athletically. Most of our teams and sports already compete against Big West teams in non-conference schedules. There are natural rivalries that will only get more intense.”

Can’t argue with that. Moving from the Mountain West will help. Yet as Ryan Greene writes, what it’ll do to Steve Fisher’s basketball team is another story.

The Aztecs’ historic 2010-11 season – 34 wins, their first-ever AP rankings, NCAA tournament wins and a Sweet 16 spot – will be tough to replicate if their recruiting takes a hit due to lack of exposure. Yet that won’t seem to be a problem. Moving to the Big East for football actually gives SDSU a $2 million annual revenue bump and the basketball team can actually play on ESPN again, something Fisher is giddy about.

“With the ability to now play home games and have ESPN be at the forefront, that will get people to come in and will get kids to watch,” Fisher said. “That’s how you recruit.”

Unfortunately, that’s just part of the equation.

Following this excellent breakdown by Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune spells out how the Aztecs can combat that.

Foremost is the scheduling issue. The MWC isn’t a BCS conference, but it’s not a one-big lead like the Big West, either. Any missteps during the conference tournament would likely end SDSU’s Big Dance hopes. School officials are pushing for just 14 conference games so they can bolster the non-conference schedule with RPI-boosting games to avoid a conference swoon. They’ll also mix in some easier home opponents.

But that also means the Aztecs must be ready to handle everything league foes throw at ‘em..

“You’re the team that everybody circles on their calendar. Every night you’re somebody’s biggest game of the season, every night you’re getting somebody’s best shot. You don’t get nights off, and mentally that’s a challenge,” San Diego coach Bill Grier told the paper.

“You can’t have one slip-up.”

So, to recap: SDSU gets more money and can possibly boost recruiting by additional exposure on ESPN, but the schedule will be a tricky spot and everyone will be gunning for ‘em. Piece of cake.

Related story:

Aztecs have some issues with Top 25 rankings

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.