The assumption has been that IF the Bearcats move to one of the "power five" conferences that it would be the Big XII. After all, that league only has 10 teams - they need to expand! While that is all true, the Big XII has not always done what is in its own best interests... which leads me to the ACC, another conference that has a history of shooting itself in the foot.
Right now the ACC sits at 14 teams for football, 15 for all other sports. It's already the largest of the P5 leagues; why would they want to expand (unless Notre Dame moved its football team into the conference)? My answer: for a cable network.
Think back to just before the SEC Network was formed. That league was much like the ACC, with no media rights of value to put into a conference sports channel. So what did the SEC do? They added two teams (Texas A&M and Missouri), but they did NOT add those teams to the regular TV contract right away - instead, they held those games as a bargaining chip to use when negotiating a cable channel with ESPN... and it worked!
Interested yet? Well if we look at the most recent US census numbers by state, we see that the ACC is already in 5 of the 9 biggest states. Number one overall - California - is too far away to do any good. Texas is far, but not completely out of the question - and Houston could be had. However, if you're planning to launch a cable channel, you want to add two new states. The next non-ACC-state after Texas is Illinois, but I don't think the ACC would want NIU. The next state after that is Ohio. I don't have to tell you which is the largest, most "P5-ready" school in Ohio, do I?
By my calculations, if the ACC added Houston and Cincinnati, not only would the new schools pay for themselves, but it could potentially boost the revenue of all existing schools by $9 million per year per team!
If you want to see the numbers, click here: http://accfootballrx.blogspot.com/2016/02/population-expansion-and-cable.html