But who is this magical ninth team who is going to provide us with instant legitimacy, compete on a regular basis and be excited to be a member of our conference? I'm not so sure that team exists. Let's break down the possibilities:
Notre Dame - The dream team. We all know what ND brings to the table, and so does ND. If they ever do join a conference, and I think someday they will, it will be the Big Ten (or whatever they call themselves at that point).
Army - We've been in discussions with them for the last few weeks. Pros would be a geographical rivalry with Syracuse and a well-regarded history. Cons would be that they're atrocious and their history is the only thing exciting about their program. Besides, they've already said thanks but no thanks.
Navy - Another program with a great historical reputation, Navy has actually put together a nice recent history as well. But for the same reasons Army won't join the conference (flexibility, independent status), Navy won't join either.
East Carolina - The program that's been batted around for Big East consideration for as long as the conference has been around. This sounded like a great idea in the early 90's. ECU had a decent run going, the conference could get their mitts into the Carolina area. Nowadays their a mediocre program in Conference USA. They could add a great location for the conference but they wouldn't do much for our prestige.
Marshall - The Thundering Herd are already a huge rival for West Virginia and close enough to Pittsburgh. Could we possible have two teams in West Virginia though? It's scary enough visiting there once every two years.
Memphis - A natural rival for Louisville, its too bad we don't have room in our basketball conference to make them a two-fer deal. Still, their football program is atrocious and still stinks of infractions from the Alabama recruit scandal. Shame.
UCF - Sure, we've already got a Florida team but why not another one? Located in Orlando, UCF and USF could one day become the new Miami-FSU. No? Alright, maybe not. But it can never hurt to have more fingers in the Florida recruiting pot.
Miami (OH) - Hey, we already have a team in Ohio, we're not exactly hugging the Atlantic Ocean anymore. They're already playing 2-3 Big East teams a year as is, and we've got lots of old merchandise with Miami on it that just needs a slight addition.
All in all, the easiest (and most likely) scenario is that we'll pull another UConn out of our hats and claim a Division 1-AA transplant as our own. Villanova is the program that truly sticks out since they almost jumped to Division 1-A and the Big East a few years ago. If they weren't so tight about building new facilities, they'd be in the conference right now. Expect the conference to do whatever it can to ease the transition for the Philly school, it just makes too much sense. The conference can afford to take on a lesser program as long as West Virginia and Louisville stay relevant in the national picture. The Big East needs to be in Philadelphia and Villanova is already very familiar with how we do things 'round here. I'd give it another year or so until you hear the official announcement.
Seems I'm not the only one thinking this, by the way...