Bleacher report detailed in a recent article that Air Force is monitoring BYU’s move to Independence carefully and could possibly if enticed with the possibility of more exposure leave the Mountain West for Independence or something else, which could be membership in the Big-12.
The article broached the idea of Air Force going at it as an Independent, I am actually under the belief that Air Force may actually be on the Big-12’s radar as a potential member. The Big-12 is at ten programs, which is great for programs that want to play everybody in the conference but bad when it comes to having a championship game, good in that you don’t have to beat a good team twice, but bad in having programs that win a conference championship game leapfrogging a the Big 12 champion sitting at number two in the BCS standings.
I can guarantee this, if Texas is sitting at number two and is leapfrogged by a program that wins a championship game, Texas will be on board with finding two programs to round out the Big 12 and allow for a championship game, and what Texas wants Texas gets. Air Force as a member of the Big 12 allows the conference to continue to have a footprint in the Denver market. Okay, I know that Air Force is not big news in Denver, but let’s be honest how much play did Colorado receive in the Denver market the last few seasons? The facilities at Air Force are as good as the mid level programs in the Big-12. Travel to Colorado Springs is just as easy as it is to Boulder and Air Force is a program that would be able to be competitive in the Big-12, no they are not winning a conference championship ever, but neither is Iowa St, or Baylor.
Right now the MWC has done its best “freshman fifteen impersonation” (you know the really hot girl in High School that gains about 30 pounds her first year of college). The Mountain West was a conference that was once looking like a good landing spot for programs that were on the cusp of moving to an AQ conference and wanting to push the conference into being an AQ conference. However in the last thirteen months the conference is danger of becoming an afterthought or at becoming the WAC.
Air Force may see what is happening in the MWC and maybe looking for a way out. Independence is something that makes some sense but the Big 12 seems like a better option. What may be keeping Air Force in the MWC is the loyalty it feels toward the conference’s member schools.
It is a possibility in the way that some programs that seem to not fit are in a conference. Has anyone asked themselves why is Vanderbilt in the SEC. Air Force would make sense in that it would keep a footprint in the state of Colorado, The facilities at Air Force are as good as the mid level programs in the Big-12. Travel to Colorado Springs is just as easy as it is to Boulder and Air Force is a program that would be able to be competitive in the Big-12, no they are not winning a conference championship ever, but is Iowa St, Texas Tech, Kansas, or Baylor ever really going to be a threat to win a conference championship going forward with the inequity of the distribution of money in the Big 12? Air Force may look at Big-12 membership as a sentence where Independence allows the school to determine its destiny.
Air Force currently may see life in the Mountain West Conference may have run its course; the television deal with the Mtn. not only is not lucrative it does not help with exposure, and games with New Mexico, UNLV, Wyoming, Colorado St., and Nevada do nothing to boost its national profile. With all due respect to the fan bases of those schools playing those programs do as much as playing FCS programs, heck many of you know those programs are just a small step up from an FCS program just look at the home attendance at any of those schools.
Air Force provides a strong voice in the room during conference meetings, and would bring academic integrity to the conference much like Vanderbilt is for the SEC. They are going to be the voice of Student Athlete Sanity in the room during conference meetings and may actually advocate more for student athlete issues, as student athletes at the Academy have unbelievable demands placed upon them, from early morning physical training to the mandatory Math classes. Air Force also should be the voice of integrity and strength that probably will not allow Texas, or Texas A & M to cajole the rest of the conference into doing its bidding.
Ultimately, Air Force may choose independence over conference affiliation but it almost seems wise for the Big-12 to propose the idea to Air Force and make this a four year plan which can be evaluated by both parties. It would be something unheard of in college athletics, where a program may actually be honest about their ability to compete in a conference, which is what Air Force would have to do should it be offered the opportunity to compete in the Big-12. The final question that would need to be answered is, what program would the Big XII invite to complete the conference, to make an even twelve programs and put all of the money making pieces of this puzzle back into play.