I've long suspected that the smart folks at Notre Dame realize they just might be better off in joining the Big Ten, but have to manage the P.R. to grease the wheels for this move. Notre Dame is clearly the first choice of the Big Ten.
I suspect Notre Dame would like some cover for how this will go down, to lessen the outcry for those poor souls clinging to some nebulous beneift of "independence". "Our hand is being forced !" says Swarbick...
Notre Dame COULD stand to reject an invitation to join a Big Ten expanded to 12. If the Big Ten were to go to 16, I think it would start the ball rolling toward four 16-team super-conferences (the Big East and Big XII would largely be devoured by the Big Ten, ACC, SEC, and PAC-16). Notre Dame does NOT want to be left on the outside (looking in at that).
Such a situation would be stable for the long term, and lead to an 8-team BCS playoff (four champs, and four at-large (largely chosen from the "Big 4")).
So at this point, Notre Dame better NOT be too strident and cut off their options.
If the Big Ten goes to 12, I see the following happening:
12 teams becomes the standard.....
PAC also expands to 12.
Big XII re-stocks, as necessary.
Big East splits and football group expand (largely with CUSA teams) to create 12-team all-sports conferernce.
MWC re-stocks / expands to 12 (with WAC schools, maybe UTEP and / or Houston from CUSA)
CUSA re-stocks (primarily with Sun-Belt schools).
If the Big Ten goes to 16, the writing is on the wall that there will be 4 16-team super-conferences eventually, and the scrambling will begin.
Likely 5 team expansion for Big Ten:
Rutgers, Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame, Missouri
East - Rutgers*, Syracuse*, Penn State, Pitt*, Ohio State, Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame*
West - Michigan, MSU, Northwestern, Illinois, Missouri*, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin
ACC could devour the remainder of the Big East:
the original "zipper split" was to avoid dominance by FSU and Miami in same division. I don't think that applies any more.
A north-south split could reunite tobacco road....
North - BC, UConn*, Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Viirginia*, Cincy*, Louisville*
South - UNC, NC State, Duke, Wake, Clemson, Ga. Tech, FSU, Miami
SEC would go after Texas, TA&M, OU, OSU:
East: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina. Tennessee, Vandy, Kentucky
West: Mississippi, MSU, LSU, Arkansas, Texas*, TA&M*, OU*, OSU*
PAC would have numerous candidates:
I think the best one stays with "pairs"
East: Nebraska*, Kansas*, Colorado*, New Mexico*, Utah*, BYU*, Arizona, ASU
West: Washington, WSU, Oregon, OSU, Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA
BCS is now 8+12+11+Notre Dame+12+12+10 = 66
This is a "net loss" of 2 schools currently in BCS, but not in 4 super-conferences:
now BCS, not in 4 super-conferences: South Florida, Iowa State, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas Tech (-5)
not now in BCS, would be in 4 super-conferences: New Mexico, Utah, BYU (+3)
The specific choice of Big XII / MWC schools in any PAC expansion could go in multiple different ways, however....
The four super-conferences will ABSOLUTELY DOMINATE TV air-time, and money.
No top recuit in his right mind would consider going to a school NOT in the big 64.
Four super-conferences lines up better with available TV coverage: CBS, ABC/ESPN, NBC/Comcast, Fox
I think the PER SCHOOL share of such an arrangement will be significantly higher than with seven or eight 12-team conferences that still contain some viable contending schools. This will contribute to increased dominance....