The Southeastern Conference has Vanderbilt. 

The Big Ten has Northwestern. 

Might Tulane join the Big 12 and become the conference's academic crown jewel?

It's not as far-fetched as you might think, according to ESPN's Jake Trotter, who argues that if the 10-team Big 12 decides to expand to 14, Tulane might be a "wild card" to fill the 14th spot. Houston, BYU and Cincinnati are seen as the favorites to capture the first few openings.

For the Big 12, it's Tulane's sterling academic reputation that could intrigue member school presidents and chancellors -- the conference expansion decision-makers.

As a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), Tulane is considered one of the top 62 research universities in North America. It’s a distinction many sources at Tulane believe is a critical factor in their pitch to those Big 12 presidents, who have seen the league lose three AAU members (Colorado, Missouri, Texas A&M) and not gain any in the past five years.

But the Green Wave's athletic prowess, particularly in football, isn't overly attractive. Tulane's average home game attendance of about 23,000 in 2015 would've ranked last in the Big 12 in 2015, trailing only Kansas, who averaged about 27,300 in attendance per home game. The Green Wave also haven't won a bowl game since the 2002 Hawaii Bowl.

For Tulane, it's interest in the Big 12 is obvious. The prospect of joining a Power Five conference could be a game-changer for the university in terms of revenue, visibility and local engagement.

Since being hired in December, Green Wave athletic director Troy Dannen has repeatedly said he’s eager to capitalize on any chance to move into a Power Five conference, and reiterated it again in the wake of the Big 12’s announcement.

“When I was introduced as athletic director last December, my goal was to ensure Tulane University was in a position, athletically, to take advantage of opportunities which may come our way,” Dannen said in a statement to The Advocate recently. “If an opportunity for candidacy in the Big 12 Conference presents itself, that is an opportunity we will certainly explore.”

It's possible the Big 12 will present candidates for expansion in October and vote to add new schools for the 2017 athletic seasons.