I still believe the Big Ten would like to add only one more team. That team being Notre Dame. But they need to show they are willing to expand to 16 teams, showing ND they may be left in the cold if they do not join. If ND calls their bluff, the Big Ten and Jim Delany will have three decisions to make.
1st scuttle The Big East by taking Pitt, Syracuse, and Rutgers and or possibly UConn, and stay at 14 teams. This scenario will likely kill the Big East and thus severely putting the hurt on ND's non-football revenue, and possibly academic prestige. This still leaves Delany an out, with hopes of ND seeing the writing on the wall, and joining a future 16 team league.
2nd scuttle the Big East and bring the Big Ten to 16 teams. This really has the possibility of hurting ND. The question is will ND feel football independence is more important than the long term well being of the institution? That is the question AD Jack Swarbrick must answer. Of course the answer is "no" but one thing Catholics have shown in the last couple of months is the pretension to go down swinging no matter how bad that decision may be (see Pope). A non ND 16 team league could look like this. Nebraska, Missouri, Syracuse, Pitt, Rutgers, with UConn being a wild card. This is the ND nuclear option if Delany chooses.
3rd just add Nebraska. This gives the Big Ten a rabid fan base much like that of Penn State, a championship game, a future with ND still possible and the Big East still intact. This is the small carbon footprint option.
One thing is for sure, Delany and Swarbrick will have decisions to make. My guess is Delany approaches ND first saying this is what were thinking. ND joining the Big Ten is a win win, and you know it. Either you are going to join as our 12th team, or we are going to 16 without you. If Swarbrick decides against joining the Big Ten, Delany will choose one of those three options. In my opinion I just can't see Delany not choosing an ND nuclear option if the Irish say "no" again. Although I would caution against it. What will need to happen is for ND to save face with its alumni somehow, by saying they decided to spare the Big East by joining the Big Ten. Because in all reality, that will probably be what they are doing if they decide to join.
The Guessing Game:
16 team league.
Pipe Dream League: Texas, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Kansas.
More likely: Notre Dame, Nebraska, Syracuse, Missouri, Pitt.
Without ND: Nebraska, Missouri, Syracuse, Pitt, Rutgers.
If you have ND, you do not need Rutgers and Syracuse to get into the NY market. That is why I believe Syracuse would be the better fit.
14 team league:
ND, Nebraska, Syracuse
No ND: Syracuse, Rutgers, Pitt
12 team league:
ND or Nebraska.
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