Wednesday, February 22, 2012
East Meets West
Jim Sterk talks about realignment and the future of Aztec athletics.
A neon billboard in New York City announces SDSU's entry into the Big East.
Conference realignment has shaken up college athletics as universities across the country maneuver for maximum financial return. Recently, SDSU announced two significant moves—to the Big East for football, and the Big West for most other sports.
SDSU Athletic Director Jim Sterk sat down with 360 Magazine to talk about how conference realignment will ensure that Aztec athletic programs are competing and thriving.
What changes should SDSU football fans expect when the Aztecs start play in the Big East?
We should be very competitive in the league. We’ll have the opportunity to play at the highest level, to compete for major bowls that we don’t have the opportunity to compete for right now. And that’s got everyone in the football program excited—the staff, the coaches and the players. On the national media scene, I think you’ll see a big change in the coverage of SDSU.
How often will the team travel to the East Coast each season?
It will be similar to what we did this year where we had a game at Army and a game at Michigan. Playing six or seven games in the Western Division of the Big East, the furthest we’ll travel will be to Houston or Dallas. Then there may be one or two conference trips east. And in our non-conference schedule we’ll focus more on Midwest and Western teams like Arizona and Washington.
Will all of our games be televised in San Diego?
The television landscape is changing on a daily basis, but it’s opening more opportunities for us to be seen locally, regionally and nationally. The Big East is negotiating with TV partners in September, so I can’t predict what’s going to happen. It could be that on a single day, four Big East games are shown nationally back-to-back-to-back-to-back—one in each time zone. Our TV consultant thinks it’s a great concept—a made-for-TV league.
How will an improved television contract for football help other sports?
The television revenue should be significantly different than what we’re experiencing now, and that’s important for us. I hope we can build back some of the support positions lost over the last few years in areas such as sports medicine and equipment management. In order to run a program effectively at a high level, you need that support. It’s important for people to understand that we don’t have a large budget compared with our competitors. The challenges we face are serious—the reduction of state support and the increased cost of tuition. We can make up some of that with the increased revenues. But we still need donor support for our program and our students, and we need people to continue buying tickets.
When will you start locking in basketball games with Big East opponents?
We have an opportunity, given the relationship with the Big East and with ESPN. If we don’t schedule a home and home with UConn next season, it will happen shortly thereafter. They want to play. Coach Fisher wants to play. It’s just a matter of working it into the schedule. And we’ll work on others. Conference realignment has really opened doors for us. Coach Fisher has done a great job of lining up national caliber competition because of his reputation. This will only enhance what we can do.
What would you say to fans who think conference realignment will hurt the men’s basketball program?
If BYU, Utah and others had stayed in the league, it would have been a different story. But with those defections, it was imperative for us to move forward and not backward in all our sports. If we don’t move forward, then basketball will be hurt because we won’t have the revenue to run a national program. The scheduling partnership with the Big East and our new TV partnerships can only help improve the program. The Big West will be competitive. This season they’ve had six signature wins. By comparison, the Pac-12 had only two signature wins.
Which other sports will be changing conferences and how will the moves impact them?
This realignment gives more sports the opportunity to make the post-season. The defections from the Mountain West didn’t just hurt football and basketball; they hurt sports like baseball and softball, too. The majority of our sports will be in stronger conferences. Travel will be easier. There are more natural rivalries. Our alumni and fans will have more opportunities to see Aztec teams play, and our teams will be exposed to more regional markets than ever before.