by Ralph Routon
Boise State has accepted an invitation today to become the Mountain West Conference's 10th member, as of July 2011.
That adds some considerable strength to the Colorado Springs-based MWC, because the Boise State football program has won two Bowl Championship Series games in the past four years. It's also a blow to the Western Athletic Conference, which lost eight members to the original Mountain West when the new league formed in 1999.
Of course, the Mountain West's expansion might be continuing in days ahead, depending on the fate of the Big 12 Conference. Rumors persist that if Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State leave the Big 12 for the Pacific 10 (now 11, counting Colorado), then the Mountain West might pull in the remaining Big 12 members. That would include Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor for sure, and perhaps even Missouri unless the Big Ten gives Mizzou an invitation.
In the unlikely event that the Mountain West stops at 10 members, that would bring up issues such as football scheduling. More likely, the MWC will wind up with two divisions and a conference championship game, plus an expanded conference basketball team for men and women.
In a statement released by the Air Force Academy, AFA superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould says:
"This is the culmination of a lot of work, thought and careful assessment by
the Mountain West Board of Directors to make the best decision for the
conference. We want to ensure that the Mountain West continues to stay as
strong as possible and Boise State meets that criteria. Regardless of what
happens with conference expansion, our mission at the Air Force Academy comes
first — educating, training and inspiring men and women to become officers of
character and leaders for the Air Force and the nation. Along the same line
of thinking, Air Force will maintain the scheduling flexibility to play Army
and Navy every year. These are time honored games steeped in traditions that
will continue. Finally, the Air Force Academy values its traditional
rivalries with front range opponents Wyoming, Colorado State and New Mexico
and we will work hard to maintain competition with these schools. This is
important for two reasons. First, it will help minimize time away from
classroom studies for our cadets and all student-athletes. And because we
value our fans' support and loyalty, we need to remain loyal to the fans of
all these schools who enjoy the geographic proximity which translates into
ease of travel to all the games. This is a dynamic time and I'm in close
consultation with the Mountain West Conference Board of Directors and we'll
continue to examine further possibilities for the conference."