Of course Herman would leave Houston for a prestigious SEC school. I just hope they don't try to come after Lane Kiffin. He's had an unusual path, but he seems to have regained confidence (and toned down his ego). He has implemented a successful offense at Bama. Would hate to see him go, but I know he'll go somewhere.
The economy doesn't explain empty student sections. They've already paid for those tickets. They just aren't showing up or, if they do, they just stay for a short time.
Many of those students likely did swipe their activity cards at the gate, so it would register as an entry into the game. They don't want to lose their rights to purchase the next year. So, they swipe and then leave.
Ask the students and they will tell you (having children who just graduated from major SEC schools) that there are several factors at play. 1) Night games against weak opponents interferes with partying (if alcoholic beverages were served inside the stadiums--attendance would go up--not saying I am advocating that--just putting it out there if we REALLY want to get at why student attendance is down); and, 2) Many universities now "load" the student tickets on the student's ID card and students are penalized in subsequent years when trying to get tickets if they "sell" too many of their student tickets to other students (which is done electronically and has time limits for processing) or if they don't transfer the ticket or attend the game at all. So, they can't just--at the last minute--sell or give the ticket to another student. So, for "lame" games, students will go to the gate, swipe the card, and then leave soon thereafter. It is irritating as an adult--many of the students don't realize the opportunity they have to enjoy this "season" of life! HD just doesn't compare, and nobody really wants to see your Instagram of your feet in front of the TV screen.