Air Force coach Troy Calhoun detests playing games on Saturday following Thanksgiving, but he no longer has any choice.
Under the Mountain West’s new format, which includes a championshp game, all teams must play the week prior to that game. Not having a game in that week, the league reasons, would provide an unfair advantage for a team that would gain extra rest and preparation time for that game.
As it stands that championship game is scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving weekend, which means Air Force is stuck with a game following the holiday for the foreseeable future.
“We used to request nearly every time,” said Javan Hedlund, the Mountain West’s associate commissioner. “But it’s now the policy where everyone has to play that weekend unless somehow the calendar changes.”
Calhoun had prefered to take that weekend off in an effort to provide his players with a needed break. Freshmen, in particular, have been at the academy for five months at that point and the Thanksgiving break allows them a chance to return home. With a game on that Saturday, the football teams remains at the academy during that week. The only opportunity to return home then becomes an open-week weekend, but that is generally only a two- or three-day refresher.
The next opportunity for the cadet athletes to return home is on Christmas, but as the team learned during a run of six consecutive bowl games, that trip is also often cut short because of football.