SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Get ready to kiss Air Force goodbye. The Mountain West Conference is on the verge of losing a charter member.
The Falcons are looking to fly far away to save the Big East from disintegration, with the hope that fellow military academies Navy and Army will join them in the league.
"Our interest is high in the Big East. That's fair to say," Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh told me Saturday.
"This stuff is moving fast."
He expects that the future of Air Force athletics will be decided by the end of October. The plan would have the Falcons joining the Big East only in football, while moving teams in other sports to the Missouri Valley Conference."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," said Mueh, stressing that no final decision has been made.
But after talking with Mueh extensively outside a somber locker room in the wake of the Falcons' 59-33 loss to Notre Dame, it clearly sounded as if Air Force is gazing squarely at the exit door from the Mountain West, a conference it played a key role establishing in 1999.
"I could just sit back and wait, but that's not in the best interest of my cadets. I need money to allow them to compete," Mueh said. "For us, competition is a mission. It builds the leadership, self-confidence, discipline, teamwork, courage and stamina that we want in the officers we're producing for America."
Know what the biggest shocker in Air Force's decision might be?
Given an opportunity to join Oklahoma and Texas in a revamped Big 12, the Falcons have said thanks, but no thanks.
"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 said.
"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."