The ties that bind the Air Force Falcons to their traditional rivalries were greater than the allure of a new conference.

Air Force announced Wednesday the school will stay in the Mountain West rather than bolt for the rebuilding Big East. Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, the academy’s superintendent, said he recently spoke with Big East Commissioner John Marinatto and informed him of the school’s intention.

“We belong out West and for now that’s where we’re going to stay,” Gould said.

In this ever-changing landscape of college football, Air Force is one of the few teams electing to stick around when offered a chance to leave. But Gould said long-standing rivalries with teams such as Colorado State were hard to overlook.

“We just played our 50th game with CSU,” said Gould, whose school will play in the Military Bowl against Toledo at RFK Stadium in the nation’s capital on Dec. 28. “It’s the longest we have standing. We think that there’s something to be said (for that). It’s a short bus ride for our players and our fans. You don’t miss a lot of class.”

The Falcons have been members of the Mountain West since joining in 1998-99. The league recently announced plans to combine forces in football with Conference USA and form one mega-league that will probably have between 20 and 24 teams when it finally gets going in 2013.

That plan may now need some tweaking and altering.

The Big East is courting schools after the planned departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. The league recently announced the addition of five universities, including Mountain West members Boise State and San Diego State, which will join only for football.

The other three schools, Houston, SMU and Central Florida, will be departing Conference USA.

Gould said all the reshuffling didn’t deter his decision. But he will keep an eye on things going forward.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the end of conference affiliation changes,” Gould said. “I think there’s probably some fatigue right now and we might not see much in the next couple of months or even a year or two. Down the road, things can change.

“For now, we’re `all in’ (in) the Mountain West Conference.”

Now that his conference situation is resolved, Gould will monitor another situation — schools trying to lure away his coach.

Troy Calhoun is a hot commodity these days, especially after leading the Falcons (7-5) to a fifth straight bowl game. His squad also won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy this season.

Gould firmly believes Calhoun isn’t going anywhere.

“He’s an Air Force Academy guy through and through,” Gould said. “Last year, when the Broncos job opened up in Denver, I think you remember what coach said. He said, `If we can ask these young men to make a commitment to serve their country, the least I can do is make a commitment to stick with it.’ Pretty powerful.

“We’ve got a great one and we’re very, very fortunate.”

– By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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