Here's how the Michigan football team's date with Air Force transpired
Scheduling non-conference football games can be a tricky endeavor for Air Force athletic director Dr. Hans J. Meuh - opponents are reluctant of an encounter with the Falcons’ triple-option offense.
So when Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon reached out to him in mid-November to discuss the possibility of a Michigan-Air Force matchup, he was a little surprised.
“He initiated the call, which humbled and honored us,” Meuh said Friday night.
Both teams had an open date on Sept. 8, 2012. The prospect of a game - the first between the two schools in 48 years - enticed both athletic directors.
Parameters on a one-game contract for a game on that date at Michigan Stadium had been in place for a while, according to Meuh, but a shakeup in the Mountain West Conference complicated the deal.
“Back in November, the conference was in such turmoil,” he said. “We didn’t know if we would have eight or nine conference games. There was a lot of uncertainty.
“Scheduling became an issue, but Dave was great. He was really patient.”
On Friday afternoon, the schools finally made it official. Michigan will host Air Force on Sept. 8, 2012. Financial terms of the agreement call for Michigan to pay Air Force $1.1 million.
It’s a one-game contract, but Meuh said both sides are open to discussing future meetings. He said he got the sense from Brandon that Michigan had plans to turn the contest into a special event that pays tribute to the nation’s armed forces, a trend Air Force has seen in recent non-conference games against Tennessee and Oklahoma.
“There’s a pro-military flavor in the country right now, that all of us are, of course, appreciating,” Meuh said. “People are looking at us and saying, ‘Boy, we’d really love to have them in our stadium.’”
Oregon was one of those schools - the Ducks had shown interest in playing the Falcons on the same date as the Wolveirines.
But Air Force would have had a stretch that included Oregon, TCU, Boise State and Notre Dame. Meuh thought Michigan was a more forgiving opponent.
But he got a little more than he bargained for.
Non-conference opponents can find Air Force’s unfamiliar triple-option offense difficult to defend, and that element of surprise may have worked in the Falcons’ favor.
But since Meuh and Brandon started discussing the game, Michigan has hired Brady Hoke as coach, who twice faced the Falcons in his two-year tenure at San Diego State.
“That’s the only downside for us now,” Meuh said, laughing. “The sad part is we thought we could come in and surprise someone, but now it works out that won’t be the case. He’s a very good coach.” For Michigan, the game comes one week following a season-opening spectacle against Alabama at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. The Wolverines also travel to Notre Dame in 2012, and have one more date to fill on their non-conference slate.
“Alabama, Air Force and Notre Dame make our non-conference schedule among the toughest in college football,” Brandon said in a written statement.
Air Force and Michigan may not have played since the Wolverines won, 24-7, on Sept. 26, 1964, but their histories intertwined during the 2010 season when Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson broke the NCAA single-season rushing record for a quarterback.
Air Force quarterback Beau Morgan had held the mark since he rushed for 1,494 yards during the 1996 season.
Robinson finished the 2010 season with 1,702 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.
Pete Bigelow covers Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at (734) 623-2556, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.