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Will New Television Contract Mean More Empty Seats Around the SEC?

Go to the game or stay home and watch it on television? That question gets a lot harder to answer this season with the new SEC television contract between CBS and ESPN. While conference schools are getting a boat load of new cash from the networks, the new deal may mean more empty seats on campus.

In case you missed it, under the new contract Auburn will have 11 of its 12 games televised this year across both networks. Only the November 7th contest with Furman is not scheduled for television and that's likely to be carried on pay-per-view.

The same goes for the rest of the conference. At a minimum, each SEC school will have seven games televised - yes, even Vanderbilt. The top teams are guaranteed to have virtually all of its games available over the air.

With an economy that continues to struggle and the advent of really big and clear high definition televisions, fans are likely to think twice about dropping several hundred dollars a weekend to make the trek to campus. Maybe it's already having an impact. For the first time in many years, Auburn still has season tickets available including seats for the Iron Bowl.

Undoubtedly, a lot of this stems from the economy and the fact that many Auburn fans are less than enthused about the choice of Gene Chizik as coach. Add in low expectations for the season and you have a recipe for some empty seats on the Plains. 

Don't be surprised to see this played out in other places across the conference. Most all schools are reporting a reduction in athletic department donations and that will likely translate into empty seats all over the South. Even when you take the money issue out of the equation, this new television contract makes it tempting to stay home.

There's a lot to be said for sitting in the air conditioner, watching the SEC games of your choice and maybe another national telecast on your big HD television. For the price of a set of Auburn season tickets including your donation to Tigers Unlimited, you can buy a 50 inch plasma or LCD television that brings you closer to the action than you could ever hope to get in person.

What you don't get is the tailgate experience, Tiger Walk and the game day atmosphere. But considering it's likely to be 90 degrees or more for the first four home games, sitting on the couch sounds pretty inviting. Personally, I don't miss home games. I'm one of those who arrives at 9 a.m. for an evening kickoff. I'm also the type of person who on Sunday questions whether its worth the effort and money when all I have to do is turn on the television.

I'm sure you'll agree: tailgating is hard work. The new TV contract just makes me question my viewing habits more. Staying at home never looked or sounded so good.