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The Big East came out and announced earlier today that they will not be adding schools in states where the conference is already present:
What is happening is the league, or the conference, now is looking at schools and they have looked very much at schools that are not in any of the states that are represented by the Big East schools right now. The ones that they're looking at right now, they do not sit in any state that the Big East schools currently are in.
For the Big East to corner themselves into not picking schools such as Temple, Central Florida or Houston just because a school already resides in that state seems short sighted. However, this means that Air Force moves up the list to receive a possibly invite to the Big East.
That is exactly what Jon Winer of The San Jose Mercury News said in a tweet earlier today:
He is the only source reporting that Air Force and Navy have received offers, so keep that in mind. Just because they have received an offer does not mean they are leaving the Mountain West for the Big East.
Though Pac-12 expansion appears dead and the Mountain West is considering a football-only merger with Conference USA, the Big 12 still exists at nine teams for now. However, much remains to be seen with Oklahoma's and Texas' futures. Oklahoma president Dan Boren wants current Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe relieved of duties. Once that happens, reports John E. Hoover of the Tulsa World, Boren would agree to keep Oklahoma in the Big 12 and seek expansion for the conference:
The source also said if Beebe was removed (it is believed Boren has enough votes to make that happen), Boren would agree to a 10-team Big 12 that included BYU, TCU or Air Force, or a 12-team league that included all three.
One of those three is not like the others and it's Air Force. TCU would be the highest-profile team to bring in, but the school is set to move to the Big East in 2012. If they decide to break away they would need to deal with a Big East commissioner that isn't letting go of Pitt and Syracuse until 2014 (though a buyout could accelerate that). BYU is a brand football, which makes their possible addition to the Big 12 sensible.
Air Force, though, doesn't bring in a media market, even though they would take the spot that Colorado vacated this year with its move to the Pac-12. The prestige of a service academy helps, but Air Force is likely the third school on their list should expansion happen.
The 2011 college football season is already underway, but Texas A&M's planned departure from the Big 12 has placed conference realignment in high priority. The Big 12 wants to survive and they are looking for new schools. According to CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd, the Big 12 is interested in Air Force, but there are at least four other schools the conference is interested in.
Those other teams? Arkansas, BYU, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. Clearly the Falcons would not be the first choice. As Frank Schwab of the Colorado Springs Gazette tweets, the Big 12 would be interested in Air Force for its geographic location, taking up the spot the Colorado Buffaloes held before 2011.
Of course, there's always that monkey in the room of other teams departing the Big 12. Texas could leave, Oklahoma might want to as well. Anyone want to think about the Pac-14? Let's just stick with the game on the field that starts this week.
The Big 12 conference will be down to only nine members in July 2012 if a new team or two can't be found. Texas A&M finally informed the Big 12 on Wednesday that it will seek a new conference affiliation and leave on June 30, 2012, should that happen. This could start a whole new round of conference realignment.
The Air Force Falcons could be a possible target to join the Big 12, as rumors on that have already appeared. Air Force's athletic director, Hans Mueh, issued a statement shortly after those rumors cropped up and was non-committal on things. While he claimed the academy is satisfied with being a member of the Mountain West, Mueh still used that phrase "will continue to work towards what is best." The Big 12 would offer a bigger spotlight for Air Force, but there are still far too many variables before anything happens.
For now, sit back, relax and get ready for an exciting season of college football.
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.
The Air Force Falcons are reportedly a target for the Big 12 should the conference expand, but there are a number of hurdles that would need to be overcome. First, Texas A&M would need to leave the conference for the SEC, which is where these rumors about Air Force began. However, Texas A&M's move to the SEC, which many claimed was ready to happen over the weekend or on Monday, has stalled for the moment. Second is whether the Air Force Academy wants to leave the Mountain West
Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh released a brief statement on the reported rumors of Air Force being under consideration for an invitation to the Big 12 (via Frank Schwab of the Colorado Springs Gazette):
"The Air Force Academy is a proud and happy member of the Mountain West Conference and looking forward to a great future. The Academy will continue to work towards what is best for our cadet-athletes in every area on and off the field as we continue working to produce officers of character for our Air Force and the nation."
First, Mueh wants to assure the Mountain West that they have no issues with the conference. Second, however, the academy might be open to the move because Mueh is looking out for "what is best" for the place.
We're still a long way from this being a serious point of interest.