The Air Force to Big 12 reports are still in the infant stages and may not happen at all, but if the Falcons do decide to accept an invite to the Big 12 down the road there are financial penalties that they would accrue. When Utah, TCU and BYU decided to part ways from the Mountain West, the league had no penalty in place. Commissioner Craig Thompson always mentioned that the league would not stand in the way of teams leaving and if they do not want to be here then they are free to leave.
Well, that stance changed during the board of directors meeting that was held in early June and now there is a penalty if a team leaves. If Air Force does end up leaving to join the Big 12 there would be a financial penalty:
Effective this date [June 7, 2011], the Mountain West has added to its Bylaws resignation parameters which establish a significant financial penalty for an institution that chooses to depart the Conference. If a member institution provides notice on or before the June 30 preceding its subsequent June 30 withdrawal date, it shall forfeit its final year of revenue. If the resigning member gives notice after the established June 30 notice date, it shall forfeit its final year of revenue plus pay a sum of $5,000,000 OR shall pay double the amount of the final year's revenue, whichever is greater.
That amount probably would not hinder Air Force moving to the Big 12, or any other Mountain West team who receives an invite to a BCS league.
In light of Air Force being mentioned as being looked at by the Big 12 to join their league, the Mountain West's Board of Director's Chair and UNLV President Neal Smatrask released a statement about the current state regarding conference realignment and how it pertains to the Mountain West:
"The Mountain West Conference continues to closely monitor potential conference membership scenarios nationally, and is remaining diligent in exploring options to further the Conference's objectives," Smatresk said in a statement. "Our Board is reviewing a number of topics crucial to the league's growing strength and its future development. The process of evolving these strategies is ongoing and they will remain confidential until or unless it becomes appropriate to share them publicly."
That is just your generic speak about keeping options open and watching the landscape within conference realignment.