SAN DIEGO >> San Diego State will join the Big West Conference in 14 sports, including basketball, starting in the 2013-14 academic year.
Monday’s announcement came five days after SDSU announced its football team was moving from the Mountain West to the Big East beginning with the 2013 season.
School officials said their teams will gain TV exposure and decrease travel by competing in the Big West, which includes Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara. The Big West has TV contracts with ESPN and Fox Sports.
Men’s basketball coach Steve Fisher and baseball coach Tony Gwynn praised the move.
“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,” said Fisher, who last year led the Aztecs to a record-setting season in which they went 34-3 and reached the NCAA tournament regional semifinals. “That’s how you recruit.”
San Diego State last played a home game on ESPN in 2005.
With 14 conference games in the Big West, the Aztecs will have 16 non-conference games to fill. San Diego State will play four games against Big East opponents each season starting in 2013, and the Aztecs have discussed a home-and-home series with Connecticut.
“It will enhance our ability to schedule, and we’ll have to make sure we schedule intelligently,” Fisher said.
The move to the Big West could hurt San Diego State in terms of RPI. The Mountain West was fourth in RPI while the Big West was 24th Monday.
Big West Commissioner Dennis Farrell said several schools are building their programs with new coaches and athletic directors, and the league’s goal is to have multiple bids to the NCAA tournament.
Gwynn said the move to the Big West will strengthen the Aztecs’ schedule and help with recruiting. The Aztecs will regularly face such national baseball powers as Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine.
“In the long run, it makes a lot of sense,” Gwynn said.
San Diego State will bring all of its sports to the Big West except football, women’s crew, women’s lacrosse, women’s swimming and diving, and women’s indoor track and field. Most of the sports will begin competing in 2013-14 in the Big West, while water polo will begin competition in spring 2013 and men’s soccer will begin competing in fall 2015.
San Diego State also considered the Western Athletic Conference.
“The Big West is a great fit for us geographically, academically and athletically,” athletic director Jim Sterk said. “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.”
Farrell said San Diego State will elevate the conference’s national profile.
Other members of the Big West are Cal Poly, Cal State Northridge, Pacific, UC Davis and UC Riverside. Hawaii will join in 2012.