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Air Force AD: ‘interest high in Big East’ after turning down Big 12

Air Force Falcon

There has been more than just a little talk of late that Air Force would take its football program out of its current conference home in the Mountain West and move it to the Big East.  Based on the words of the service academy’s athletic director, that “little talk” is more than just idle chatter and could come to fruition by the end of this month.

And, in what’s one of the more remarkable twists in this latest round of expansion apocalypse, the same school also snubbed the advances of another BcS conference.  Before touching on that, however, let’s get the meat of the subject matter out of the way first.

In a conversation with the Denver Post following the Falcons’ loss to Notre Dame yesterday, AD Hans Mueh openly admitted a very keen interest in moving his football program to the Big East — the academy’s other sports would move to the Missouri Valley Conference in such a scenario — and that the athletic department’s future should be decided by the end of October.

Our interest is high in the Big East. That’s fair to say,” Mueh told the Post.  “This stuff is moving fast.”

Mueh also said he would like for the other service academies to join Air Force in the Big East.

“In my perfect world, with the Big East on the radar, I would love Air Force, Navy and Army to be in that conference together,” the AD said.

Navy has been connected to the Big East for several weeks, as has Army, although the latter seems to be uncertain about making the move both because of the level of competition — memo to the Black Knights: it’s the Big East, you’ll be just fine — and because they enjoy what independence means for scheduling.

What the loss of Air Force would do to the Mountain West’s future plans remains to be seen.  The conference has already lost BYU (independence) and Utah (Pac-12) this year, and will lose TCU (Big East Big 12) next year.  Those losses have been or will be offset by the additions of Boise State, Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii.

When all of the dust settles, and if Air Force leaves as expected, the MWC would be left with nine members.  Such a scenario could be the trigger for the long-rumored merger/affiliation with Conference USA.

As noted by the website Mountain West Connection — thanks for the heads up, Jeremy — though, perhaps the biggest news to come out of the Post’s piece had absolutely nothing to do with the Big East.  According to Mueh, his school was rebuffed overtures from the Big 12 that could have meant millions of dollars for his athletic department’s coffers.

“We were approached by the Big 12, and I told them we’re not a good fit for that conference. In the Big 12, geography makes sense, the economics make sense, but recruiting makes no sense for us. I can’t recruit against Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State,” Mueh told the paper.

“That’s why I turned down the Big 12. I can’t do that to my kids, because they’ll get beat up. I’d love the extra $12 million or whatever it would be per year from the TV money. And I know how I’d spend the money. I’d build a new soccer stadium, and I’d build a new baseball facility, all in one year. But I can’t do that.”

What a novel concept, doing what’s best for your student-athletes instead of chasing every last dollar.

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13 Responses to “Air Force AD: ‘interest high in Big East’ after turning down Big 12”
  1. mattlester says: Oct 9, 2011 2:48 PM

    Army is called the Black Knights; the Golden Knights parachute into the big games

  2. brutusbuckeye2011 says: Oct 9, 2011 3:06 PM

    Colorado is rather far away from the east. I guess distance won’t be too much of a problem. Air Force can jump into a squadron of SR71’s and be there in no time at all.

  3. surly1n1nd1anapol1s says: Oct 9, 2011 3:20 PM

    Of course a government institution would pile into a conference that the general public runs away.

  4. elm0helmet says: Oct 9, 2011 3:44 PM

    The service academies all in one conference could be interesting, but none of this expansion discussion seems to have any chance under the current BE conference leadership (who are just waiting until the poaching has completed to do anything).

    It’s honestly going to take some kind of coup by the football playing member ADs to get out from under Marinatto’s leadership, and make their own future for themselves as a group. Nothing positive, or remotely sustaining, is going to come out of the current setup.

    They need to take a cue from the ACC and find ways to be proactive instead of continually playing the victim (for whatever is left of this window of realignment).

  5. burntorangehorn says: Oct 9, 2011 4:12 PM

    I don’t think the USAFA would’ve brought enough to the Big 12, but one or more of the academies might be okay for the Big East. I think they’re of marginal value even to that conference, though. There’s just not much fanbase and very little commercial revenue.

  6. paulbrownsrevenge says: Oct 9, 2011 6:03 PM

    I’d like to see all three service schools in the same conference. It’s fun to watch them play. Would help recruiting if they were in the BigEast.

  7. freerayray52 says: Oct 9, 2011 8:59 PM

    How is the AD doing whats best for his student athletes? The football team will be in an easier conference, but their road games will all be timezones away. All other sports will be in a second tier conference. If they went to the Big12, all sports would be in a top tier conference, there would be all kinds of new facilities. Not a very smart move to pick Big East over Big12, and definitely not helping the student athletes. I can understand Navy and Army joining the Big East (although I think Navy is better than all BE teams).

    Also – AF, Army, and Navy recruit nationally and not in the same pool as any schools. Conference Affilitation means nothing to the service acadamies when it comes to recruiting.

  8. mdnittlion says: Oct 9, 2011 9:24 PM

    Honestly who didn’t see that one coming?

  9. burntorangehorn says: Oct 9, 2011 10:31 PM

    freeray–there’s not really a concern for the academies with money for facilities. They’re not rolling in dough, but they are Department of Defense organizations that are subject to a different set of rules and regulations. They could have all the cash in the world, but it’d be subject to a lot of review, including by defense committee members in Congress. That’s a lot different than institutional trustees and state regents.

    You’re right that they recruit nationally, and of course they also draw from the DOD high schools abroad (mostly Germany). But of course it’s not like any of the services is going to get a prospect who seriously wants to better his chances of reaching the NFL. There might not be a school in the nation that is more serious than those academies about uniformity of stringent admissions and academic standards across student and student-athlete populations. There’s no such thing as redshirting. And while each of the academies has slightly different policies for enforcing its service component’s weight standards, the fact is that academy linemen (especially USMA’s) are held to weight limitations. This means their biggest defensive tackles and offensive linemen are very generously listed at 260-275lbs. most of the time, rarely bigger and often smaller. This makes it virtually impossible to run a conventional offense against quality opponents.

    Beyond that, there’s so little fanbase for any of these that it just doesn’t make sense for a conference like the Big 12. I’m not sure whether Neinas was verbally offering or just scoping interest, but I don’t think an academy is a viable member of a BCS AQ conference. The alumni bases are tiny. The USMA has been around since 1802, its website states it has only around 67,000 in its history and graduates 1000/yr. 67,000 in over 200yrs. Think about that tiny alumni base, and then think about how few of those are probably still alive. Then cut that number down by at least half, but probably more than 75%, because most of them either have other stuff to do or aren’t interested in watching their alma mater’s entry in college football. Then think about how few non-alumni on active duty are interested, because while some do watch college football, they’re very seldom fans of the academy teams. Then think about how even though the academy games may or may not be broadcast on AFN satellite TV, which is advertisement-free, for troops all over the world, the few who do don’t really add to ad/sponsorship numbers. All in all, there’s just really not a fanbase for an academy that makes any kind of economic sense.

  10. Fan On Fire_Maurice Barksdale says: Oct 10, 2011 3:02 AM

    The Air Force A.D. is looking at this the wrong way. Of course he can’t recruit against the Texas’ and the Oklahoma’s, but neither can Baylor, Iowa State, or Kansas. But surely Air Force could recruit against those teams.

    Also, being in the Big 12 opens up recruiting opportunities for the Air Force Academy. Being able to tell a recruit that he will play against those great programs actually helps them recruit players they probably would not have had a shot at before.

    This A.D. simply wants to continue to play against competition he can beat, but I think he’s underestimating his coaches and his players. You never know what can happen.

    By going to the Big East, all he’s going to end up doing is having to look for another conference in a few years any way, because the Big East may not survive once this is all said and done.

  11. freerayray52 says: Oct 10, 2011 9:38 AM

    burntorange –

    I think you have made most of my point. The AD is saying he can’t recruit against Big 12 teams. And obviously he can’t. But if the economics make sense, the geography makes sense, and it makes much more sense for the non-football sports.. seems like a no brainer.

    academy facilities are a different color money (not in DoD appropriation that you reference), plus you can use other money (the conference affiliation money) That money does not have to go back to treasury.

  12. mdnittlion says: Oct 10, 2011 10:14 AM

    @ freerayray52 & burntorangehorn

    The DoD changed the policy about academy guys being allowed to play in the NFL. All they have to do is put in 24 months of service and then they have the option to buy out their military contract or switch to the reserves.

    The Philly Eagles have a WR from the Air Force Academy and Detroit was working out a running back from Army last month. A year ago the Bengals brought in a Tight End in from Army for the first part of minicamp.

  13. goodfieldnohit says: Feb 3, 2014 7:33 PM

    The Big12 was turned down by the Air Force? What happened to Clemson, Notre Dame, and Florida State?

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