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Gazette Premium Content Now committed to the Mountain West, Air Force changes focus

FRANK SCHWAB Updated: December 7, 2011 at 12:00 am

Air Force has gone from considering leaving the Mountain West to being one of the leaders in trying to keep it together.

With academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould’s announcement that Air Force would not go to the Big East, Gould made it clear that he and the academy want to be one of the leaders in strengthening the Colorado Springs-based conference, which lost Boise State and San Diego State to the Big East this week.

“We are committed to the Mountain West, and feel like the Air Force Academy is a key member, a pivotal member of this conference,” Gould said. “I think we can do a lot to shore up membership in this league.”

The conference’s oft-criticized television contract needs to improve, and Gould was involved in discussions on Tuesday about potentially changing it. He and Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson were in New York for the National Football Foundation’s awards dinner, and both men visited executives from CBS, one of the league’s television partners. Versus, which will be known as the NBC Sports Network starting next year, is another television partner the conference has had dialogue with.

“We’ve made it known to them we need some help in revenue distribution across our conference,” Gould said. “I think we have a good response from CBS and NBC.”  

The MW will have to address its losses, which leaves it at eight football playing members and seven in all sports. The league announced a football association in October with Conference USA, which lost members Houston, Central Florida and SMU to the Big East this week, and the two leagues could discuss a full merger. Expansion could also be an option for the Mountain West. The MW board of directors will have a scheduled meeting next week. Gould didn’t want to discuss specifics of the Mountain West’s future, deferring to Thompson.

“There are so many issues in play, and it would be premature to speculate or even comment on any single facet,” Thompson said in a statement. “Our board, other institutions, and several industry interests are engaged.”

Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh said he wonders about the strength of the Mountain West, which has lost a lot in the past two years, but he hopes it will stabilize.

“I would love to see it succeed,” Mueh said. “I have worries because we’ve lost Utah, BYU, TCU, Boise and San Diego State. That hurts. But I also have an unlimited amount of respect and confidence in Craig Thompson.”  

Gould is optimistic about the future of the league, and feels it is the best fit for Air Force.

“We’re about taking care of our cadets and giving them the best opportunities to compete, to win, to achieve success – to beat Army and Navy – mainly to recruit and retain some of the finest young men and women in this country,” Gould said. “We feel like what we have going in the Mountain West will enable us to do that.”

Contact Frank Schwab: 476-4891

Twitter @GazetteAirForce Facebook Gazette Frank Schwab

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