Air Force to remain in Mountain West

Air Force wide receiver Cody Getz, center, dodges Colorado State defenders en route to his first touchdown of the season during the Falcons' 45-21 victory over the Rams Nov. 26, 2011. Regional rivalries like Air Force-CSU were one of the factors in Air Force's decision to stay in the Mountain West Conference, Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould said Dec. 7. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Van Winkle)

Air Force wide receiver Cody Getz, center, dodges Colorado State defenders en route to his first touchdown of the season Nov. 26, 2011, during the Falcons' 45-21 victory over the Rams. Regional rivalries like Air Force-CSU were one of the factors in Air Force's decision to stay in the Mountain West Conference, Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould said Dec. 7, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo/John Van Winkle)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Air Force Academy will stay in the Mountain West Conference, declining an offer to join the expanding Big East Conference, Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould announced Dec. 7.

The Academy was one of several schools courted by the Big East, which extended feelers and formal invitations to Air Force, Boise State and other MWC teams earlier this year.

While a dialogue will continue, the Academy will remain in the Mountain West for the foreseeable future, Gould said.

"We are proud members of the Mountain West Conference, and for now we are going to stay there," he said. "Now is not a good time for Air Force to move to the Big East, for lots of reasons. The primary draw was the potential for some big TV money - and I emphasize potential. The primary draw(s) to stay put (were) loyalties, regional affiliations with traditional rivals ... commitments we've made and what I feel is the right thing for our cadets, for our Air Force Academy and for the Air Force," he added.

The lure of greater television revenue was a factor in other schools' decisions, but it's the core mission that matters for the Air Force Academy, Gould said.

"We don't make decisions based on a potential television revenue," he said. "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 the country. And we feel that what we have in the Mountain West Conference will enable us to do that.

"We are committed to the MWC. I feel the Air Force Academy is a key and pivotal member in the Mountain West, and we were (on) the ground floor," he added. "I think we can do a lot to shore up membership in this conference."

Gould said the decision to stay was made only after fully examining each option's pros and cons. These included travel time, class time missed, costs and traditional rivalries. Those rivalries are a very important part of the equation, he added, citing the end of the Texas-Texas A&M football rivalry as one of the consequences of the ever-shifting college football landscape.

"We just played our 50th football game with Colorado State in our 53-year history," Gould said. "And we don't have as many years behind us as other schools do, but we'd like to build on this. What better rivals can you have than those in the Front Range and some of our regional partners?"

The Mountain West has been thrown several curve balls in membership in recent years, losing BYU to an independent status and Utah to the Pac-12. TCU departs after this academic year: The Horned Frogs were initially slated to join the Big East next season but bolted to the Big 12 after that membership offer hit the table in October.

Wednesday, the Big East announced its latest additions: the University of Central Florida, University of Houston and Southern Methodist University as full members along with Boise State University and San Diego State University as football-only members, all beginning with the 2013-2014 academic year.

That will leave the Mountain West with Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV and Wyoming. When the 2012-2013 academic year starts, Hawaii will join the Mountain West for football only while Fresno State and Nevada-Reno come on board as full members of the conference.

But this likely won't be the end to the conference realignments.

"We will address conference membership next week in Las Vegas in our (MWC) Board of Directors meeting, and we'll take a look and see where we go from here," Gould said. Among the options on the table for the Mountain West include possible conference expansion, as well as a proposed football-only alliance with Conference USA.