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Arms Race Continues To Push College Football Prices Higher

A Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium is not cheap.

By Jay Coulter

I can still remember it like it was yesterday.  My first Auburn game: October 4, 1975. Auburn vs. Virginia Tech. Ticket price: $7.00. As a student in the 80's I paid $24 for season tickets.

My how times have changed. As Auburn gets ready for another football season, you have to wonder what effect the economy will have on Auburn attendance. If season ticket sales are any indication, the answer is not much.

But there's more to it than just ticket sales.

Will fans drive from Birmingham, Mobile or even Atlanta? With gas prices still hovering near $4.00 a gallon and everything from food to tailgating supplies going up in price, you wonder whether there will be a flood of tickets available on game day.

Sure there will be a full house for LSU, Tennessee and Georgia. But what about Louisiana-Monroe, Southern Miss and Arkansas? I won't even ask the question of Tennessee-Martin.

Unfortunately, Auburn and the rest of the SEC are catching up with professional sports in how much they charge to attend games. I recently read where Auburn was second in the conference behind only Florida in what it asked fans to "donate" to the athletic department in order to be allowed to purchase season tickets. In Auburn's case we are talking about Tigers Unlimited.

Before we go any farther, let me say that I'm not bashing Auburn alone. It's a problem that permeates all of college and professional sports. Let's face it: the average family can barely afford to attend even one game a year. That means there are thousands of kids that will never get exposed to Auburn football like we did because of money.

All college programs are in an arms race. We all want the best stadium, the best locker rooms and the best practice facilities. With these amenities come the best athletes in the country. But it comes at the expense of thousands of people who know Auburn only through television.

Let's take a look at the cost of season tickets for a family of four to attend Auburn's seven home games this year. First you must make a donation of $220 per seat to sit in the end-zone or upper deck. To get better seats, you'll have to give more: either $350 for blue zone seats or $500 for orange zone seats.

But let's keep it cheap and go with the $220 per seat option. The upfront donation is $880. Then we must buy the tickets. This season they'll run you $350 per set. Add it all up and you've spent $2,280 before you hit the Auburn city limits - and that's for upper deck seats. Add in food, beer, soft drinks and a few souvenirs and suddenly you're limping back to the car with a big dent in your wallet.

College football is big time now. In many ways that's good.  Instead of getting two games a week on television, we now get 15. Instead of one weekly television show, we now have hundreds.

But along the way we've lost something. For many, the days of taking their son or daughter to several games a year are gone. Even more will likely never set foot in Jordan-Hare and experience the team taking the field as the band plays or experience the sounds of an Auburn touchdown.

Who says bigger is better?