Utah hosted San Diego State late Saturday night in the Utes’ final nonconference game before kicking off Pac-12 play next week at Arizona State.
But when the Utes and Aztecs compete in the future, could those games be Pac-12 contests?
How about Utah vs. San Diego State — Pac-12 After Dark?
Could the two programs be conference rivals again?
Utah and SDSU played on a yearly basis when both were members of the Western Athletic Conference and the Mountain West Conference, and when it comes to Pac-12 expansion, San Diego State has been a school frequently mentioned.
The Pac-12 — which will be losing USC and UCLA in 2024 — has reportedly shown interest in San Diego State. For starters, the Aztecs would provide the conference a foothold in Southern California after the departures of the Trojans and Bruins.
But many in the media have been extolling SDSU’s virtues.
“San Diego State makes a lot of sense for the Pac-12,” wrote Pac-12 insider John Canzano. “It has a robust media market (1.1 million television households) and great geography.”
Doug Haller of The Athletic wrote that SDSU is considered a prime target for the Pac-12.
“The Athletic asked a couple of industry sources about Pac-12 expansion candidates, and each one started here. The Pac-12 has never seemed to take San Diego State seriously, mostly because it operates in the California State University system, but it’s time to give the Mountain West school a strong look,” Haller wrote.
“San Diego has the 28th largest television market, which is not ideal, but adding the Aztecs would give the Pac-12 a presence in some part of Southern California. This cannot be ignored. Athletically, San Diego State recently has outperformed many Pac-12 schools in football and men’s basketball, so that’s not an issue. The football program has posted five seasons of 10-plus wins over the past seven years. The men’s basketball team has made the NCAA Tournament nine times since the 2009-10 season.
“Most important, the Aztecs have showed a commitment to taking the next step. This fall, they are scheduled to open the $310 million Snapdragon Stadium as their next football home. There’s some momentum here.”
And Pac-12 insider Jon Wilner, who broke the USC/UCLA-to-the-Big Ten news last June, has made a case for SDSU to join to the Pac-12.
“Admittedly, we don’t have a good handle on San Diego State’s Olympic sports, but it doesn’t matter. Realignment is about football, men’s basketball, and football. Also, football. On the field, the Aztecs are 6-1 against the Pac-12 since 2017, with wins over Utah, ASU, UCLA, Stanford and Arizona,” Wilner wrote.
“They have won at least 10 games in five of the past six seasons (excluding 2020) and were ranked in the end-of-year AP poll in 2016 and 2021. While SDSU hasn’t reached the same level of success as Cincinnati — or Boise State under Chris Petersen — the program is on the next tier. Add the resources and cache that would come with Pac-12 membership, and the Aztecs would more than hold their own on a weekly basis.
“Meanwhile, the men’s basketball program is plenty worthy of an invitation, having qualified for the NCAAs in nine of the past 12 years. (Had COVID not intervened, the Aztecs would have been a No. 1 or 2 seed in the 2020 tournament.) Also, have you seen the state of Pac-12 basketball lately? SDSU would enhance the overall product.”
According to Wilner, the Pac-12 should jump at the chance to add the Aztecs.
“The Pac-12 desperately needs SDSU in order to maintain a presence in the greater Southern California region, both for media exposure and a recruiting foothold. Put another way: Without the Aztecs, the conference won’t have a campus within 300 miles of the talent pool that fuels its roster building — all while the Big Ten will have greater access once USC and UCLA begin play in 2024.
“In that case, the Pac-12 might as well be the Big 12 ... Bottom line: College football is transforming at warp speed. Are the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors smart enough to accept the new reality and reconsider longstanding biases? They have never deemed schools in the CSU system worthy of membership. To that line of thinking, we say: Evolve, or die. Run the numbers and sketch the future however you want. In the aftermath of the L.A. thunderbolt, the Pac-12 needs San Diego State.”