The Mountain West Failed Air Force and Wyoming on Selection Sunday

Air Force and Wyoming will play in familiar bowl destinations this December, but it did not have to be this way.

Air Force will play in the Armed Forces Bowl for the second straight year
Source: AP Photo/LM Otero

Texas is a state known for its oil, cowboy culture, and most of all, its military bases. So, in perfect Texas fashion, Air Force will play in the Armed Forces Bowl in back-to-back years and a Dallas-Fort Worth Area bowl game for the third straight year. At this point, the yearly December excursions to the Metroplex must be getting old for Falcon fans. The Mountain West could have done better.

Wyoming has an identical 8-4 record yet is destined for the Arizona Bowl for the second straight year and third time since 2019. However, a simple swap could have made both bowls and fanbases happy.

If the Mountain West wanted Air Force to play in an area with several military bases, they could have sent them to Tucson. Davis-Monthan Air Force base is less than 10 minutes away from Arizona Stadium. Additionally, multiple Air Force bases reside in Arizona. Swapping Wyoming for Air Force would have still given James Madison a formidable opponent since they had identical records.

The Mountain West had another option that could have benefitted Air Force and its bowl partners. The Mountain West could have done a three-way swap that placed Utah State in the Arizona Bowl, Wyoming in the Armed Forces Bowl, and Air Force in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Utah State last appeared in the Arizona Bowl in 2017, Wyoming has never appeared in a bowl in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and Air Force last appeared in the Potato Bowl in 2014. This arrangement would have been a change of scenery for all parties.

The biggest winner of all would have been the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The bowl has struggled with attendance since the 2020 season, seeing just above 10,000 fans attend the 2021 and 2022 editions. Over two-thirds of Albertsons Stadiums was empty for these games.

Veterans living in Boise and the surrounding area would have increased the poor attendance from the last two editions of the game. Additionally, Air Force could have increased the Potato Bowl’s viewership. Since ESPN Events owns the game, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl cares more about TV viewership than attendance. Having a national brand like Air Force, which runs one of college football’s most unique schemes, would have boosted viewership significantly. The Boise bowl game hardly gets national brands, with BYU being the only program with a national following to play in the bowl since the 2010s.

No one truly knows what happened behind closed doors on selection Sunday. However, repetition and discontent were the products of these discussions. The Mountain West sending Air Force and Wyoming to repeat bowl destinations disservices the student-athletes and fans of these schools. Hopefully, next year, the conference will be more creative on Selection Sunday.