LSU football: Why Tiger Stadium is called "Death Valley"

A staple of Tiger Stadium is the "Welcome to Death Valley" sign illuminated in gold. Many LSU fans don't know the history of the nickname, so here it is.
Sep 23, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers take the field prior to the game against the
Sep 23, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers take the field prior to the game against the / Scott Clause-USA TODAY Sports

There's nothing like a Saturday night in Death Valley because that's when LSU football is under the lights. Death Valley is one of the loudest venues in North American sports. It's also one of the most intimidating environments for opposing teams.

But how did Tiger Stadium acquire the nickname "Death Valley?" The story is twofold.

Like any good story recounted multiple times, the tale of LSU's Death Valley differs among the locals. However, the most famous story involves Crowe Peele's Shell gas station on the corner of Highland Road and State Street in Baton Rouge. The former LSU boxing champion's service station was nicknamed "Deaf Vally Shell" because of the raucous crowd noise overheard from Tiger Stadium on gamedays. 

Peele ran his Shell station for 18 years, during which journalist and radio host Jim Engster publicized the Deaf Valley moniker. Fellow journalist Ray Cox acknowledged such in a 1999 New Roads article.

"When I was in LSU Law School in '56-'58, we definitely referred to the stadium as Deaf Valley," said Cox. "That isn't hard evidence, but everyone's ears would be ringing for a couple of hours after a game." 

LSU football defeated the Clemson Tigers in the 1959 Sugar Bowl 7-0. As a result, the purple and gold Tigers were crowned 1958 college football national champions, but that wasn't all LSU claimed.

After the Sugar Bowl win, LSU Tigers' fans claimed the "Death Valley" nickname in a move we'd describe as trolling in 2024. But of course, Clemson's Memorial Stadium became known as Death Valley after Presbyterian head coach Lonnie McMillian described it as such in 1948. However, the LSU fan movement grew legs, and Tiger Stadium was commonly referred to as Death Valley a decade later.

Ironically, the '59 Sugar Bowl was played at Tulane Stadium, not Tiger Stadium.

Nevertheless, LSU football fans have done more than flaunt a nickname. For example, in 1988, Tommy Hodson's 11-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Fuller on 4th down generated crowd noise that registered as a ground motion on a seismograph about 1,000 feet from Tiger Stadium. The Tigers upset Auburn 7-6 on that night.

Nothing triggers Clemson fans more than referring to Tiger Stadium as Death Valley. But they've never been loud enough during a football game to move the earth. Heck, Garth Brooks playing "Callin Baton Rouge" at Tiger Stadium solicited a reaction louder than anything heard on a Saturday night in South Carolina. 

Story Link. Tiger Stadium upgrades in 2024: What we think they will include. dark. Next

Indeed, the true Death Valley in college football is more than a nickname handed down by an opposing head coach. In Baton Rouge, Death Valley is a culture.