The Air Force Falcons are strongly leaning toward staying in the Mountain West Conference instead of heading to the Big East as a football-only member. The process of the Big East courting Air Force began this past summer when athletic director Hans Mueh met with Big East commissioner John Marinatto. Then again Big East officials came to Colorado Springs in October to convince higher ups about joining the Big East. However, Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, Air Force's superintendent, has been leaning to stay in the Mountain West ever since the October meeting with Marinatto.
There are obvious reasons to go to the Big East and the biggest reason is an increase of money from the next television deal, and the reason Air Force is leaning toward staying in the Mountain West is loyalty.
Colorado Spring Gazette's Frank Schawb listed some reasons how the Mountain West has accommodated the Falcons:
- The MW agreed to do an eight-game conference schedule in football when it planned to have 10 teams, instead of the obvious nine-game round robin slate. That was primarily for Air Force (which has Navy and Army in nonconference and badly wants scheduling flexibility).
- The past week provided another example. The Falcons wanted to go to the Military Bowl, which is not affiliated with the Mountain West, but had an opening because Navy was ineligible. Commissioner Craig Thompson worked with the league's bowl partners, and eventually the Independence Bowl let the Falcons go. Coach Troy Calhoun and athletic director Hans Mueh both publicly thanked the conference in the last few days for the effort to get the Falcons into the Military Bowl.
- The MW has annually tweaked its schedule to let Air Force play Navy and Army first weekends of October and November. AFA plays a conference game every year in Week 2. That's not a huge deal, but the conference has been flexible for Air Force (and it is probably a big deal to whatever conference opponent that has to play the Falcons in the second game of the season).
It is refreshing to be loyal to a league when there are better options -- in terms of money -- in the Big East. Air Force officials have also made it clear that there has been nothing official said about the future of their athlete programs regarding conference affiliation. Plus, Air Force does not want to be perceived as chasing the money by going to the Big East.