Okay, so even though expansion is probably a go--probably--none of this talk is going to be relevant for at least a year and probably much longer. Is that going to stop us? Has it ever?
Notre Dame's not going to happen. Why? Because there's likely far too large a disconnect between each side's perception of Notre Dame's value to the conference. Both the school and the conference probably think "they need us more than we need them," and only the conference would be right. Jim Delaney would likely want no part of such a radioactively bitchy athletic department and fanbase.
I get why Pitt's a natural fit for the conference and everything, but doesn't it seem like they're almost too good a fit? By that I mean their inclusion doesn't bring anything to the table except a "12th for the sake of 12." The footprint doesn't grow at all and there aren't any markets that come into play; would that even be a net positive in terms of BTN money per school? And that's not even taking into consideration the looming nightmare of crafting divisions. So yeah, might happen, but we'd prefer something a little more beneficial than the Wannstache and his minions.
Cincinnati is right out.
Missouri still intrigues me, although "Big Ten West" would scarcely be better at football than "Big Twelve North." Not a dig on Missouri, but just saying--all the post-1955 greatness (and about 90% of the pre-) is on the other side of Lake Michigan. It's likely in Missouri's best interests to at least entertain some overtures from the Big Ten, though; Missouri fans have been feeling far more disrespect from the Big 12 than any school should get from its conference (passed up for ISU? Seriously?), and if nothing else they should use the opportunity to strengthen their standing within the Big Roman Numerals. Otherwise, that BTN revenue sharing looks better and better.
Iowa State would immediately diminish the Big Ten's standing in every single aspect. They don't even belong in Division I, much less the Big Ten. No. No no no.
Any other Big 12 North schools would probably not have much reciprocal interest; they're too far away geographically and pretty well entrenched in that old Big 8 family.
As for Texas, yes, they were on the conference's radar, but there's no damn way they'd share their TV money. They're the king of the Big XII, and it'd be moronic for them to pass up any aspect of their relationship with the conference. Delaney would love to have them. And I'd love to be able to dunk on a 12-foot rim.
Syracuse and Rutgers are candidates for roughly the same reason: New York Money. Granted, they're both fine institutions with solid academic reputations, but let's be honest, the Big Ten wants to get on television screens in the Big Apple. It's quite reminiscent of when the NHL took a franchise from Winnipeg to Phoenix, since the Phoenix market is several times larger than Winnipeg. That, I assure you, has not worked out very well. You can't plop something foreign down in a major market and just expect people to pony up money. So if Syracuse or Rutgers joins and Delany tries to pressure cable companies in New York to buy into the BTN, guess what? It's probably not going to happen, and we're going to look remarkably stupid for thinking it would.
Of course, the best option--still and always--is Cornell.