The Big Ten is looking at expanding in the next 18 months. We have heard it before but this time it appears they are serious about it. The reason for the expansion is the league would like to add a conference championship game to it's portfolio.
Adding a conference championship game wouldn't be guaranteed to generate a lot of extra money for each school but it would give the conference some exposure in early December which it lacks right now. Coaches and AD's are saying that the Big Ten goes to sleep until the bowl games start and that hurts recruiting, prestige, and exposure.
In a perfect world the league would add Notre Dame and all the tradition and prestige that goes with it. Since the Irish have their own national TV deal with NBC and enjoy being an independent they will just say no like they did the last time. If Notre Dame ever joins a league it will likely be the Big East since they already have an agreement to play five Big East opponents per year in football going forward. Since all the other Irish athletic teams play full big East schedules with full conference memebership it makes sense to keep moving in that direction.
Which direction does the Big Ten move? Do they plunder the Big East or do they plunder the Big Twelve?
Joe Paterno would like to see an Eastern team added to the conference and the most likely candidates that have been discussed in the past are Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Syracuse, and Rutgers. Pitt would give Penn State the natural in conference rivarly it currently lacks and it would give the league ownership of every TV set in Pennsylvania.
As far as the BCS is concerned adding Notre Dame or a Big East school would cause the least chaos. When you poach a team from the Big 12 it could get the dominoes falling again and they could fall all the way to the West coast.
The two schools the Big Ten would look at in the Big 12 would be Missouri and Nebraska with Missouri being the most likely fit because it would lock up the St. Louis TV market and also add Kansas City to the fold. Nebraska has had the most success in football but how many TV sets are there in Missouri compared to Omaha? Expansion is all about adding the most TV sets.
The best overall fit if you are looking East or West is going to be Missouri. They have the television sets and they also have the type of academic standards that will fit in nicely with the rest of the Big Ten.
So lets say Missouri joins the Big Ten. How would that affect the Pac Ten?
The Pac Ten would be the only major conference left without a championship game. Sure the Big East is still regarded as a major but they are in a position to expand anytime they want to because they have plenty of candidates close by that would be a good fit.
Out on the West coast it isn't so easy because of geographic isolation and the lack of TV sets in the mountain states. The last time the conference looked to expand it offered Colorado and Texas a spot when the old SWC broke up. Texas declined the invitation for a number of good reasons. Colorado on the other hand has always felt that the Pac Ten would be a better fit.
When you talk about Pac Ten expansion there are really only two logical candidates and they would be Utah and Colorado. Both schools would have the same challenges that Arizona and Arizona State had when they joined the conference because neither are on a par with the other Pac Ten schools at this time from and academic standpoint. They are however close enough to pull it off and joining the league would give both schools added academic prestige.
If the Big 12 loses two teams it could go a couple of different ways. Arkansas has been buried ever since it joined the SEC. The Razorbacks could be very interested in rejoining the Texas and Oklahoma schools. Texas Christian and BYU from the WAC would jump at the chance to join a restructured Big 12.
Anyway you slice it if a Big 12 team makes the move to the Big Ten the dominoes may start rolling once again.