My first thought was "That's crazy! And it makes NO sense." But then I started reading and it turns out it makes a lot of sense. And the Big Ten thinks so too.
The best breakdown for the argument for Texas I've read is here, on an Illini sports blog. I'll give a quick synopsis, but really, take ten minutes and read that. My figures and such are all from there.
Basically the argument goes like this: Money and Academics. The people who make actual decisions in the Big Ten are university presidents, and that is what matters to them. Sure, sports rivalries are great, the Big Ten is a Midwest league, there is a certain character blah blah blah. As Tom Cruise said, "Show me the money!"
Money: Texas made $12 million off the Big 12 TV contract last season, the average school in the Big 12 made $6. Every school in the Big Ten made $22. A large portion of that money comes from the Big Ten Network, which gets money from cable companies on a "per TV" basis. Adding a school like Iowa St. does NOTHING in increase Big Ten Network revenue, because everyone in Iowa already gets the channel. So to dramatically increase revenue for MSU, the Big Ten has to look at a school outside of its current viewing area. Texas is one of the biggest TV markets in America, and would dramatically increase the number of TVs getting the Big Ten Network. That increase in money along with money from a Championship game would increase the amount above $22 million, even when dividing it by 12 schools instead of 11. Texas would like it because it sets the floor of money they are getting every year much higher than it currently is.
Academics: All Big Ten schools are part of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), along with the University of Chicago (a former Big Ten member). This is the academic alliance of the Big Ten, and allows for educational and research cooperation among the universities. The Big Ten is made up of research institutions, while the Big 12 is not. Texas, being a research institution, is not a good educational fit in the Big 12 but would be in the Big Ten, where this addition would benefit both sides.
OK, that's all well and good, but it's still just a dream, right? Well consider this. The Big Ten wants to expand. They have to take someone. People keep mentioning OTHER Big 12 schools. Think about what happens to the Big 12 if a different school leaves. They quickly need to find a 12th team to keep their championship game (and the money it brings in.) If Missouri leaves, then 2 of the top 6 TV markets in the Big 12 come with it (so less money for the remaining members based on the Big 12 TV contract.) Other schools might look at leaving too, example Colorado to the Pac 10 (and if Colorado left, thats another big TV market gone). FYI, besides Colorado and Missouri, Texas has the other big markets. And Texas's markets are the biggest overall.
If Missouri and Colorado left the Big 12, Texas stands to lose a lot of money. At that point they would either have to look for a new conference, or try and bring in new teams to the Big 12. There are not many teams that would bring in the TV markets like Missouri and Colorado, so even if they bring in Boise St or Utah or TCU, they are not getting that money back.
So, Texas has to consider its options now. If they were offered a chance to improve their academics while also being given an extra $20 million a year, and they turned it down and their conference collapsed, they would probably be kicking themselves pretty hard. The Big Ten could offer Missouri or someone else, but really, is there anyone other than Notre Dame that would be a better school to add than Texas? Texas is good academically. It would bring in a ton of money. It would be good for the overall sports competition. It would make the Big Ten an even bigger deal than it already is nationally. And it would balance the conference.
Balance the conference? Exactly. When the Big Ten expands to 12 teams, they could divide into divisions of 6 and 6 in football. Currently, you have three major teams in football, with Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. How would you split them up? Not a great balance there. Does Missouri or Iowa State help? No. Does Texas? Yes. That makes each side have two power teams.
But Texas has no rivalries in the Big Ten! Not really true. Ohio State and Texas played some amazing football games in the last few years, wouldn't that be great to have happen more? You're telling me that fans on either side aren't upset at all about how that series went, and wouldn't love another shot? How about MSU in basketball? We've played Texas the last four years and play them next season too.
So how does this affect MSU? MSU's first choice is still going to be Notre Dame. Tradition here still is going to win, and there are so many positives to that addition to the Big Ten that everyone would be happy. But if Notre Dame isn't interested, there is no better school for MSU than Texas. MSU's athletic revenue increases. MSU's academics are helped by collaboration with another great school. MSU gets it's recruiting door opened in Texas. And MSU gets another rival in sports like basketball and volleyball.
Texas to the Big Ten has my vote.