Brigham Young, Texas Christian and Utah left, and Boise State and San Diego State have pledged to depart the Mountain West Conference next year.
Air Force decided to be different.
The Falcons turned down the opportunity in December to place their football program in the Big East Conference.
Falcons coach Troy Calhoun said Tuesday at Mountain West football media days at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas that it would have been difficult to add the stress of cross-country travel to cadets who already face a demanding academy schedule.
He also said he didn’t like the idea breaking up rivalries and relationships, even with an expected increase in TV money from the Big East.
“We’ve got 27 other collegiate sports, and a number of them participate in the Mountain West Conference,” Calhoun said. “We realize we’re very fortunate to be a part of this league, too.”
Change, though, remains on the horizon in college athletics, with further realignment expected. Many observers, including those intimately involved in discussions, believe a day could come when four or five 16-team conferences dominate the landscape.
The Mountain West already has experienced massive upheaval, beginning with Utah’s departure for the Pac-10 Conference last year. BYU then went independent in football and sent its other sports to the West Coast Conference.
TCU left this year for the Big 12 Conference, and Boise State and San Diego State have agreed to join the Big East next year in football and send their other sports elsewhere, though the Broncos still haven’t settled on a destination for those other teams.
The Mountain West hasn’t stood idly by, with UNR and Fresno State competing in all sports beginning this year and Hawaii joining in football. San Jose State and Utah State will enter next year.
“We want to be involved with a conference that’s aggressive and wants to continue to grow, that knocks on the door and keeps knocking,” UNR coach Chris Ault said. “I want my football team like that.”
San Diego State coach Rocky Long said the Mountain West is headed “in the right direction,” even if his team is traveling on a different path.
“The schools that have decided to (leave) have done it for a lot of reasons and not just because of football,” Long said. “I think there are a lot of reasons even football coaches don’t understand, and it’s out of my realm of expertise.”
Boise State coach Chris Petersen also voiced support for what soon will be his former conference. “I think there have been some good changes in the Mountain West, some real good teams they’ve added in,” Petersen said.
UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said he liked that the new members have quality football programs that will test the Rebels and the other remaining MWC clubs.
“I think it’s good for the league,” Hauck said. “I’m kind of fired up about it.”
New Mexico first-year coach Bob Davie’s teams at Notre Dame played against Air Force and BYU, and he then spent 10 years as a college football analyst on TV.
What Davie sees ahead for the Mountain West is an opportunity.
“You look at all the teams, particularly next year (when) Boise leaves, there’s no one that’s just ahead of anybody else,” Davie said. “So you’ve got a lot of schools, a lot of programs, fighting to be the next team to emerge.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.