With the latest rumor from CBSSports.com it might be appropriate to take a look at the situation that Air Force is sitting in. Of all the teams in the Mountain West, they are in prime position to take a huge step in college athletics.
The Big 12 apparently has interest in them. OK, they aren't number one on the list, but realistically Notre Dame, Louisville, and Pittsburgh don't have interest in the Big 12. That leaves BYU the only one left on the list. It the Big 12 wants to be aggressive and expand, they would add BYU and Air Force both with large national (and international) followings to re-form the North division. Regionally they bring in markets in the Mountain time zone that, as a whole, make up for the losses of Colorado and Nebraska this year. Salt Lake, Colorado Springs, and a portion of the Denver market make up for the loss of the Denver and Omaha TV markets. TCU who I would suspect would rather stay within their region, would fill in nicely the South division.
But where does the Big 12 really stand? Do Oklahoma and Oklahoma State want to stay in a conference where they are under the shadow of Texas and the Longhorn Network? I know Boone Pickens stated that Texas A&M's decision to leave the Big 12 next year would be a huge mistake. But is it really? Texas A&M would be on equal footing monitarily in a stronger SEC with greater exposure. At some point the Sooners and Cowboys have got to think that the favoritism show to the Longhorns by ESPN has got to be just too much. An unequal distribution of conference TV money is going to kill off the Big 12. So then, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma jump to the PAC 12 who showed interest last year and bring Kansas and either Texas Tech or Missouri with them. Baylor, is not an option (thank you Stanford and Cal). OU and OSU fit one regional network slot as would Kansas and Missouri. Texas doesn't work if they insist on keeping the LHN as the owners and operators of the LHN and PAC 12 networks are different groups. If this were to happen, Texas would go the independent route rather than staying with Iowa State, Kansas State, Baylor, and Tech or Missouri and adding other parts to keep the Big 12 alive.
Therefore, Air Force could just stay right where they are and the Mountain West steps into the automatic qualifier slot vacated by the death of the Big 12. The conference is happy and would probably even add some of the Big 12 leftovers to get to a 12 team conference. The Mountain West would gain greater exposure from NBC and NBC Sports Network (Versus, for those of you wonder, is changing names Jan. 1, 2012) and still have a regional TV deal with the Mtn.
It would be smart for Air Force to work the back channels, take the temperature of all of the parties involved and see where the Big 12 schools truly are. If the rest of the Big 12 is happy with their own status and the opportunity is there to join, then take it. But, the Academy brass should also keep putting it out there that they are a happy and proud member of the Mountain West, which they are. If unequal money really is the downfall of the Big 12, then the Mountain West and Craig Thompson get what they want, a seat at the big kids table.
These are great times for the Air Force Academy, its graduates, alumni, and fans. Sit back and enjoy it.