Air Force was adamant that it did not want a nine conference games when the Mountain West expands to a 10-team league for next season and beyond. The Falcons, which play Army and Navy every year in nonconference games, wanted to maintain some scheduling flexibility with four open slots instead of three.
When it came time to decide the issue, Air Force got what it wanted – and it displayed a bit of power within the conference. Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said he preferred a nine-game conference schedule, then was asked why that didn’t happen.
“Basically, Air Force is concerned with Army and Navy – they’re basically playing 10 conference games,” Thompson said.
Thompson made it clear that while Air Force may have been a leader in the movement to adopt an eight-game schedule, the Falcons weren’t the sole reason for the decision. Other teams started to have similar concerns – many play Army or Navy, and teams like New Mexico and Colorado State have annual in-state rivalry games it has locked into the schedule.
“A lot of people are in that same deal,” Thompson said. “They want the flexibility.”
Another reason for the eight-game schedule is it allows more opportunities for nonconference wins, which could help an additional team or two each season become bowl eligible. Last year the Pac-10 played nine conference games, and teams like Oregon State, Arizona State and Cal weren’t bowl eligible after losing five or six games in conference play.