Financial profitability, commitment to education and athletic prestige all seem at the top of any expansion list for the Big Ten Conference. The league isn't going to expand to a Midwest school (see Cincinnati or Louisville) just so it can split into two divisions and play an annual football championship.
The Big Ten is more than just football. It's the oldest collegiate league in the country. Each of its 11 institutions also are members of the Association of American Universities (AAU), a prestigious consortium of research universities. League rules regarding academic standards are among the most stringent in the nation.
Each of the Big Ten's athletics departments earned nearly $20.6 million from the conference sharing pot in the 2008 fiscal year, a number that rises every year with television contracts. The league-owned Big Ten Network is available in 73 million households and sustained profitability within its first year.
The league competes for championships in all sports with Big Ten schools winning at least three national titles in nine of the last 10 years.
By the numbers, each of the Big Ten's 11 athletics departments earned more than $48 million in revenue during the 2008 fiscal year. Here's a look at the 2008 revenue numbers for all 11 athletics departments, as documented by the U.S. Department of Education, coupled with each school's football revenue numbers:
Any school that wants to join the league must fit snugly into that financial-academic-athletically competitive equation. Here's a list of nine potential schools, with their 2008 revenue numbers, that could join the Big Ten (an asterisk is place by an AAU member):