The Big Ten conference is investigating whether they should expand from eleven schools to twelve, in large part to have a conference championship game for football. The question is, should they expand and if they do, who should they offer membership too, and should the university accept or reject? As an academic at a Big Ten school, I am encouraged to hear that academics fit into the expansion decision along with athletics.
If expansion is driven by football championship game profits, the article linked above shows that championship game profits:
"According to SportsBusiness Journal's review of tax returns, revenue for the Atlantic Coast Conference title game was $5.7 million in 2005 and $4.9 million in 2006. The Southeastern Conference in 2008, on the other hand, returned $14.3 million, after expenses, to its 12 league members, according to SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom. Bob Burda of the Big 12 Conference said that league's title game brings in $12 million to $15 million."
Not having a championship game has a significant opportunity cost, thus the discussion about expansion is necessary.
Who should the Big Ten invite? I think the natural choice would be Notre Dame, but Notre Dame chose not to accept membership in 1999 since Notre Dame would be losing money from the sweet deal they have with the NCAA. Given Notre Dame's football performance over the last few years, I am not sure if they are a good athletic fit, but they would be a great academic fit, and for the academic reasons, I would consider them still the most obvious choice to be invited. I still think that Notre Dame would refuse, and the article seems to indicate that some in the Big Ten are very hesitant to ask again.
The article also mentions that demographics are changing, and adding a school to the south and West would make sense. I think the Big Ten should look at universities like Texas Christian University seriously. I am not aware of their academic success rates for student-athletes, but I think this would be a strategic move on the part of the Big Ten, by positioning themselves in the South. I also think that TCU would be more favorable to go to a BCS conference as a way of overcoming the hurdles that prominent non-BCS schools currently face.