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History of Tiger Stadium

College football in all its glory has no finer home than Tiger Stadium, known throughout America as "Death Valley" or as some have called it, "Deaf Valley". As recently as 1996, Tiger Stadium was named the most dreaded road playing site in America in a poll of coaches conducted by Gannett News Service. A 1987 College Football Association poll of the nation's Division I-A head coaches determined the same thing. And a 1989 poll by The Sporting News simply rated Tiger Stadium No. 1 among "The 10 best places to attend a college football game."Tiger Stadium

Indeed, Tiger Stadium is legendary in college football circles for its raucous and rollicking crowds and for uncountable memories that have been spawned in this mammoth structure. Perhaps the most famous moment in Death Valley history took place on "The Night The Tigers Moved the Earth," October 8, 1988. It was on that night, when Tommy Hodson threw to Eddie Fuller for a winning touchdown against Auburn, that the explosion of the crowd was so thunderous that it caused an earth tremor that registered on a seismograph meter in LSU's Geology Department across campus.

Then there was the night the Tigers nearly upset No. 1-ranked Southern Cal before a sellout crowd on September 28, 1979. The Tigers came up short, but the crowd roared from kickoff to final gun in a game that many ardent LSU followers rank as the loudest in stadium history.

And of course there was Halloween night, 1959, when Billy Cannon made his famous 89-yard punt return to lead No. 1 LSU past No. 3 Ole Miss. Legend has it that families living near the campus lakes came running out of their homes in fear of the noise erupting around them.

Those are the highlights, some of the moments which shaped the character of this great stadium. But week in and week out each fall, a new chapter unfolds in the story of Death Valley.

The band plays the first note of the fight song and more than 90,000 fans rise to their feet, captivated and transformed by what they are about to see. The energy, the noise and excitement level hit another gear as the players charge through the uprights and prepare to take the field of battle. As the game begins the fans create an atmosphere unlike any other in college football, raising their level of intensity as the magnitude of the game heightens with every turn.

This could only be a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.

For the college football fan, it doesn't get any better than Tiger Stadium, also known as Death Valley. Already considered one of the loudest athletic venues in the world, an additional 11,600 seats were added prior to the 2000 season, creating an even more hostile environment for its visitors with its current capacity of 91,600.

LSU averaged better than 90,000 fans per game a year ago and ranked fifth in the nation in attendance for the third straight season. Tiger Stadium had over 90,000 fans attend six home games in 2002, including 92,012 for the Alabama game, the second-highest attended game in school history. The record of 92,141 fans that witnessed LSU defeat Auburn to claim the 2001 SEC West title still stands.

Tiger Stadium at Night

"Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium..."

"It's Saturday Night in Death Valley and here come your Fighting Tigers of LSU."

Hearing those words from public address announcer Dan Borne' as the Tigers enter the stadium brings chills to even the casual LSU football fan. Seven nights a year Tiger Stadium becomes the sixth largest city in the state of Louisiana as over 91,000 fans pack the cathedral of college football to watch the Tigers play.

For LSU fans, there's nothing better than spending a night in Tiger Stadium. LSU home football games are events talked about year round. For opponents, it's another story as Tiger Stadium is an intimidating venue that has been called one of the most dreaded road playing sites in all of college football. Seating 91,600 fans and nicknamed "Death Valley," poll after poll have proclaimed Tiger Stadium as one of the greatest sites anywhere for a college football game.

In 1998, Sport Magazine named Tiger Stadium "the most feared road playing site in America." And in 1996, ESPN named LSU's pre-game party the best in all of America. Those surveys supported the previous polls by Gannett News Service in 1995, The Sporting News in 1989 and the College Football Association in 1987 that show Tiger Stadium to be the most difficult place for a visiting team to play.

Most recently, the Sporting News ranked Tiger Stadium as the sixth best college football stadium in America in a poll of college football coaches and fans, while Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly, in a column debating college football vs. pro football, penned that "College football is LSU's Tiger Stadium at night."

Now the fifth largest on-campus stadium in college football, Tiger Stadium is considered one of the loudest athletic arenas in the world. Three years ago, an additional 11,600 seats were added with the addition of the east upper deck to bring the capacity to 91,600. In addition to the new east upper deck, 70 skyboxes, called "Tiger Dens" were built giving Tiger fans luxury accommodations. The addition of the 11,600 seats marked the first expansion to Tiger Stadium since 1978 when the west upper deck was completed.

Last year, in just the third season in the expanded stadium, LSU averaged 90,307 fans a contest, the fifth-highest total in college football in 2002. It also marked back-to-back years in which the Tigers averaged over 90,000 fans a contest in Tiger Stadium, a first in school history. Six of LSU's seven home games in 2002 were played before 90,000-plus crowds in Tiger Stadium in 2002, including a season-best of 92,012 against Alabama on Nov. 16.

Indeed, Tiger Stadium is legendary in college football circles for its overflowing, raucous crowds and for uncountable memories that have been spawned inside the mammoth structure.

Part of the lore of Tiger Stadium is the tradition of playing games at night, an idea that was first introduced in 1931 against Spring Hill (a 35-0 LSU victory). Since then, LSU has played the majority of its games at night and the Tigers have fared much better under the lights than during the day. Since 1960, LSU is 182-61-4 (.745) at night in Tiger Stadium compared to a 14-20-3 (.419) record during the day over that span.

Whether the game has been at day or night it hasn't mattered as the Tigers have put together an impressive 17-4 overall mark, which includes an 8-3 Southeastern Conference record, in Tiger Stadium since 2000.

Last year, after a 33-10 non-conference win over Miami (Ohio), Miami coach Terry Hoeppener said of Tiger Stadium, "That's an exciting as an environment as you can have. I thought the crowd was a factor for us because we had communication problems we haven't had at Michigan and Ohio State."

In 2001, the Tigers clinched a berth in its first SEC Championship Game with a 27-14 victory over Auburn in the season-finale in Tiger Stadium. After the contest, thousands of Tiger fans spilled onto the stadium floor to celebrate the victory.

After a victory before a national television audience on ESPN in 2001, ESPN sideline reporter Adrian Karsten said, "Death Valley in Baton Rouge is the loudest stadium I've ever been in. There are very few stadiums in America worth a touchdown, but the Bayou Bengals certainly have that advantage in Tiger Stadium"

In 2000, the first year of the Saban era, the goal posts came down twice. Immediately after the Tigers upset then No. 11 ranked Tennessee 38-31 in overtime, the capacity crowd of 91,682 spilled onto the field of Tiger Stadium to celebrate the victory. Hundreds of students lined the sidelines and the back of the north end zone as the Tigers' held the Vols scoreless in overtime for the victory.

The goal posts came down again in the final home game of the season as the Tigers' posted a 30-28 win over Alabama, their first victory over the Crimson Tide in Tiger Stadium since 1969.

The goal posts came down for the first time in 1997 as all of America witnessed one of the most explosive nights in the history of the grand ol' stadium when the Tigers upended No. 1-ranked Florida before a national television audience. A sea of Tiger fans swamped the floor of Tiger Stadium as both goal posts came crashing down -- a scene that was replayed countless times in college football highlight shows.

Perhaps the most famous moment in Death Valley history took place on "The Night The Tigers Moved the Earth," Oct. 8, 1988. When Tiger quarterback Tommy Hodson threw to Eddie Fuller for a winning touchdown against Auburn, the explosion of the crowd was so thunderous that it caused an earth tremor that registered on a seismograph meter in LSU's Geology Department across campus.

Then there was the night the Tigers nearly upset No. 1-ranked Southern Cal before a sellout crowd on Sept. 28, 1979. The Tigers came up short, but the crowd roared from kickoff to final gun in a game many ardent LSU followers rank as the loudest in stadium history.

And of course there was Halloween night, 1959, when Billy Cannon made his famous 89-yard punt return to lead No. 1 LSU past No. 3 Ole Miss. Legend has it that families living near the campus lakes came running out of their homes in fear of the noise erupting around them.

Those are the highlights, some of which have shaped the character of this great stadium. But week in and week out each fall, a new chapter unfolds in the history of Death Valley.

Better known as "Death Valley" is known as the most dreaded road playing sites in America. The Tigers have drawn more than 15 million fans since 1957. The East stadium was built in 1926, west in 1932, north in 1937, south in 1957, and addition was completed in 1978. The original seating capacity was 12,000 in 1926 and the total capacity now is 79,940.

"I stood in Tiger Stadium and I thought, 'This is what the Colosseum in Rome must have been like.'" -- Ed Simonini, Texas A&M linebacker.

"It was like the Colosseum in Rome and we were the Christians." -- The late Bobby Dodd of Georgia Tech.

"Unbelievable, crazy. That place makes Notre Dame seem like Romper Room." -- Brad Budde, USC lineman.

"It makes a body tingle. These folks go berserk when the band marches on the field. A huge roar is heard for the invocation, for heaven's sake. They not only know the words to the national anthem, they sing them, loudly. And when the Tigers win the toss...there are tears of ecstasy." -- Douglas Looney, Sports Illustrated describing a Saturday night in Death Valley.

"Baton Rouge happens to be the worst place in the world to be a visiting team." -- The Late Paul "Bear" Bryant, head coach of Kentucky, Texas A&M and Alabama.

The home of one of football's proudest traditions, this unique structure also once served as a dormitory for approximately 1,500 students, and while LSU's athletic dormitory (Broussard Hall) was being renovated during the fall of 1986, the LSU football players lived in Tiger Stadium. The original phase of construction was completed in 1924.

This first phase included the East and West stands, which seated about 12,000. Four years later (1928), the sides were extended upward to accommodate an additional 10,000 fans, raising the capacity to 22,000. In 1936, the stadium seating capacity was increased to 46,000 with the addition of 24,000 seats in the North end, making Tiger Stadium into a horseshoe configuration.

 

 

The next phase of construction took place in 1953, when the stadium's South end was closed to turn the horseshoe into a bowl, increasing the seating capacity to 67,720.

The upper deck atop the West stands was completed in 1978, and it added 8,000 seats to the stadium's capacity. Additional seating in two club level sections, which flanked the existing press box, brought the total addition to approximately 10,000 seats and raised the stadium's capacity to approximately 78,000.

Refurbishing began on the stadium in the summer of 1985, when the East and West stands were waterproofed, and 25,000 chairback seats were added to replace the older "bench" type seats. Another phase of improvements was completed in 1987, when the North and South stands were waterproofed and newer bleachers were once again installed to replace the older ones.

The playing field was moved 11 feet to the South in 1986, to provide more room between the back line of the North end zone and the curvature of the stadium fence which surrounds the field. It also put the playing area in the exact center of the arena's grassy surface.

The Tiger Stadium press box was redecorated prior to the 1987 season, and a few more seats were installed at the upper portion of the West lower stands. Also, the stadium's seating arrangement was renumbered prior to the 1987 season, to make all seats a uniform size. The addition of bleacher seating in 1988 brought the capacity to 80,150 and the elimination of some bleacher seating after the 1994 season to accommodate renovated visiting team dressing facilities brought the capacity to its current total of 79,940. Dormitory rooms built into the stadium can accommodate 4,904 students. The original horeshoe stadium cost $1,816,210.58. The addition to close in the South end cost $1,528,342.00.