Michigan wanted to play Air Force in the worst way. Too bad that was for 2012, because the Falcons settled for a second Football Championship Subdivision opponent for their 12th game in 2011.
After weeks of phone calls to fill a vacant spot on the 2011 schedule, Air Force athletics director Hans Mueh said that the Falcons have agreed to play a second FCS team – which is formerly known as Division I-AA. Mueh didn’t say which FCS team Air Force would play on Sept. 24 because the contract hasn’t been signed, but it will be a seventh home game.
Mueh said the other option was playing at Oregon, which just played in the Bowl Championship Series title game. Mueh said had the Falcons accepted that game, they would have faced a stretch of games against Oregon, Boise State, TCU, Notre Dame and Navy.
Mueh said he simply didn’t want to put Air Force through such a difficult stretch, saying “I wasn’t going to do that to the team.”
“Those are four really quality games right off the bat, let alone the rest of the league,” Mueh said.
Michigan in 2012 was more palatable, but it took some persistence from the Wolverines to get Air Force to commit. Mueh said the first contact with Michigan was mid-November.
“They kept pushing and calling and asking,” Mueh said. “I got the sense they really wanted us and were going to make it a special event. We’re excited. It’s a great opportunity to play in the Big House.”
The Falcons will get $1.1 million to play in that game, which will be on Sept. 8, 2012 as part of a one-game contract. Air Force was hesitant to commit, partially because of the uncertainty surrounding how many Mountain West games would be played in 2012 and beyond when the conference will have 10 football teams. When the conference said it would play eight games, the Falcons had the opportunity to play at Michigan, and their desire to get Air Force on the schedule impressed Mueh.
“We were honored to do that,” Mueh said. “(Michigan athletics director) Dave Brandon was up front about it and said, “We respect Air Force and want you to come play here.’ I was very honored for them to pursue us the way they did.”