Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Air Force stays off Big East bandwagon, at least for now

Posted By on Wed, Dec 7, 2011 at 6:56 AM

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Boise State and San Diego State apparently are jumping off the Mountain West Conference ship and joining the Big East Conference, with an announcement expected as soon as today.

That’s bad news for the Mountain West, but not as catastrophic as it could have been. Air Force and Navy no longer are included in the Big East remix, which apparently means the Falcons are staying in the league they helped start in 1999. At least for now.

I had thought all along that Air Force would be making a mistake to go to the Big East, so it’s appropriate now to applaud AFA officials — starting with superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould — for deciding to stay in the Mountain West. Sure, it won’t be as prestigious without Boise State and San Diego State, along with other defectors like Texas Christian to the Big 12, Utah to the Pacific 12 and Brigham Young to independent status. But the Mountain West still can survive.

After the dust settles, the MWC will include Air Force, Colorado State, Wyoming, New Mexico, Fresno State, Nevada-Las Vegas, Hawaii and Nevada. Don’t be surprised if the league tries to add more members, starting with Utah State and perhaps New Mexico State.

Don’t forget, too, that the Mountain West already has been talking with Conference USA about some kind of merger that could produce a football playoff game. Yes, C-USA also is losing members, with Houston, Central Florida and SMU apparently bound for the Big East as well. But enough schools remain for that conference to stay viable.

Here’s the reality: Air Force doesn’t need to set itself up for failure, and the Big East would have done that. As it is, the Falcons can continue in the Mountain West with a realistic chance to be in its upper tier each season, but with ample room on the schedule for playing Army and Navy along with one or two other well-known opponents every year. That formula has been working. And the travel, both in costs and time, is much less than it would be in the Big East.

We’ll see if the Mountain West’s cable TV network can survive these changes. Hopefully it can, even if it means adding a member like San Jose State to pull in the Bay Area market.

As others are saying, this revamped conference looks a lot like the old Western Athletic Conference. But what’s so wrong about that?

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