Updated: October 6, 2011 at 12:00 am
Air Force and the Mountain West have discussed the possibility of Air Force remaining in the conference for football, but taking its other sports to another conference.
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson confirmed the discussions between himself and Air Force. The Missouri Valley Conference would be the most likely destination for Air Force’s non-football sports if it pulls those programs out of the Mountain West.
Allowing Air Force to remain in the Mountain West for just football might increase the conference’s chances to keep the Falcons’ football program. Air Force is still strongly considering a move to the Big East despite TCU’s probable move from the Big East (its announced destination next season) to the Big 12, sources familiar with the discussions said. Hawaii will join the Mountain West for just football starting next school year, so the precedent has been set.
“It has been discussed,” Thompson said. “Obviously it’s not a decision I could make, it’s a full board decision. But the Hawaii model is there.
“All options are open because Air Force football is important to us.”
The Falcons continue to discuss the possibility of going to the Big East, and it could be a more desirable option for Air Force if fellow service academies Navy and Army also join the Big East for football. The Big 12 is another possible option for Air Force, but it is unclear if that conference will expand further if it officially adds TCU, and whether it would extend a football-only invitation to a school.
While football is the main component in most realignment decisions, Air Force’s non-football sports, also referred to as Olympic sports, are seemingly a big factor in the decision as the school assesses the best option for all its programs to be competitive.
While the Missouri Valley Conference seems to be the most likely destination for Air Force’s non-football sports if they leave the Mountain West, the West Coast Conference could also be an option. The Falcons’ Olympic sports might have more success in the smaller MVC or WCC. Many of the Falcons’ non-football sports have struggled in the Mountain West. Football was the only Air Force program that competes in the Mountain West and had a winning record in conference contests in 2010-11.
“I think they’ve been trying to get in a place where the Olympic sports are in a comfort zone and football can be where they want,” Thompson said.
Thompson said he has discussed the option of Air Force’s Olympic sports leaving the Mountain West with Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, the academy’s superintendent, and athletic director Hans Mueh. Thompson said there is a chance Air Force remains in the Mountain West in all sports. However, it appears Air Force is serious about a major shift for its Olympic sports, as it also considers its football options.
“I would say – not putting a percentage on it – they would not be floating trial balloons if it wasn’t a real possibility,” Thompson said.