It is commonly assumed that if NotreDame did not join the Big10, the next most likely school the Big10 would look at, if it were desirable to have a championship game, would be Pitt.
I don't know where this "common" wisdom comes from, but it flies completely counter to statements from Big11 conference officials and from officials at most of the Big11 schools (save PennState) that say Pitt is not being considered. The PennState comments were simply that "they" would like to see Pitt added - but there is no support for it in the rest of the Big11. If Pitt (or Missouri) was such an easy to arrive at 2nd choice to NotreDame; then why haven't they been asked?
The Big11 has been giving up the considerable added revenue from a conference championship game for a decade now (in the neighborhood of $120 million in foregone revenue) and there have been no efforts to invite anyone but NotreDame. Would they wait this long and give up that much revenue - to then turn and settle for Pitt, Syracuse, Rutgers or Missouri? They could have had any of these at any time in the last decade simply by asking, yet they have not asked.
The only possible conclusion: they are not being conisdered.
If NotreDame stays independent, the Big11 stays at 11.
If NotreDame joins the BigEast or ACC (both exceptionally unlikely), the Big11 stays at 11.
The only way the Big11 expands is if NotreDame asks to join - and even then there is no gaurantee they'll be invited - not after the last fiasco. Last time, NotreDame's academic interests asked to be considered...the Big11 Presidents debated and almost rejected the idea of extending NotreDame an invitation because of NotreDame's lack of research facilities and graduate programs...the Big11 finally gave NotreDame an invitation...NotreDame then fussed about it and finally turned the Big11 down. The Big11 is in no hurry to get back to NotreDame - and isn't interested in anyone else.
As for the theory that NotreDame could benefit from conference games in the east:
(1) If the BigEast was a minor conference (non-BCS), NotreDame could still play in the east as often as they would like to (and dictate the sites, times and gate revenue split).
(2) Without the BigEast as a BCS conference, they would have an easier path to a BCS game (less automatic bids means more at-large ones).
(3) And finally - a weak, disorganized, non-BCS east is easier to recruit against in the east than a strong BCS BigEast with viable BCS teams. NotreDame would be stupid to give up their most fertile recruiting grounds by creating stong alternatives in the recruits' own back yards.