LSU’s Tiger Stadium is the best place in the world to watch a football game.
Over the past four-and-a-half years, we have told the tale of Lambeau Field, the Coliseum, the Rose Bowl and Notre Dame Stadium. We have taken you to Fenway Park and Wrigley Field while also providing a peek into Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. But no place compares to Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. It is haunted, strange and holy. Death Valley is the freakiest, funkiest, most frenetic place in all of sports.
From Bourbon Street to Baton Rouge, the freaks come out at night in Louisiana. And nowhere are they more raucous and unnerving than at Tiger Stadium. “Baton Rouge happens to be the worst place in the world to be a visiting team,” legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant once said. “It’s like being inside a drum.”
Unfair is playing LSU on a Saturday night in Baton Rouge.
Tiger Stadium isn’t the biggest venue in college football. But it’s the best. The loudest, craziest stadium in the land – Gaeux Tigers! — Death Valley is where dreams go to die. Sport magazine named Tiger Stadium the most feared road playing site in America. Verne Lundquist, who covered college football on the SEC on CBS for 16 seasons, called it the loudest stadium he’s ever been in. “Unbelievable, crazy,” said former USC All-American lineman Brad Budde of playing in Death Valley. “That place makes Notre Dame look like Romper Room.”
LSU has won 91 of 105 games at Tiger Stadium over the past 15 seasons. That stretch dates to 2005 and includes 26 wins over teams ranked in the Top 25. Only four times in this century have the Tigers lost more than one game at home in the same season. They are 121-19 during that span and amassed perfect home records in 2004, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2019.
On football gamedays, Tiger Stadium becomes the fifth-largest city in Louisiana as over 100,000 fans pack the cathedral of college football to watch the Tigers play. Featuring the most spirited student section in America, home football games are serious business at LSU. Worship happens here. Games are events talked about year-round and memories created at Tiger Stadium are passed down from generation to generation.
Some of the most famous plays in college football history have taken place in Tiger Stadium. On Halloween night 1959, Billy Cannon cinched the Heisman Trophy with an 89-yard punt return to lead top-ranked LSU to a 7-3 win over No. 3 Ole Miss in the “Game of the Century.” Thirteen years later, Bert Jones hit Brad Davis on the final play of the game to again beat Ole Miss, 17-16. In October 1997, College GameDay was in Death Valley to witness 14th-ranked LSU stun No. 1 Florida 28-21 to end the Gators’ 25-game SEC win streak.
It got so deafening after LSU beat Auburn on the final play of their 1988 game that Tiger Stadium registered on a seismograph for 20 minutes.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly, “College football is LSU’s Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night.” Considered the scariest place for visitors to play and easily the most boisterous venue in the country, Death Valley’s atmosphere is unsurpassed. The tradition of playing games at night began in 1931 when the Tigers downed Spring Hill 35-0. The nocturnal advantage is real. LSU’s home winning percentage improves from the mid .600s in day games to nearly .800 at night. But while playing after sunset gives LSU an on-field advantage, it costs the university on the bottom line, as day games televised under the SEC contract with CBS are far more financially lucrative.
“When LSU plays on Saturday night and the band takes the field and plays the first four notes of “Hold That Tiger” it will make the hair stand up on a dead man’s chest,” wrote the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The scene in Baton Rouge is bombastic and fantastic. Chris Fowler called LSU his favorite game day experience. “It has turned the knees of All-Americans to goo,” wrote CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd in 2009. “It has caused coaches to lose their minds.” It only happens at a special place at a special time. LSU can be up, LSU can be down, but LSU’s best weapon remains…sunset.
Tiger Stadium opened its gates in the fall of 1924 as LSU hosted Tulane in the season finale. The original venue, which held 12,000 fans, also served as a student dorm. In the nine decades since, the sacred structure has undergone several expansions and now seats 102,321 patrons, making Tiger Stadium the fifth-largest in the NCAA and seventh-largest in the world. More than 700,000 fans attend LSU home games each season and the Tigers have finished in the nation’s top 10 in attendance in 52 of the past 59 seasons. Since the NCAA began compiling attendance figures in 1957, over 31 million purple-and-gold clad fanatics have poured through the turnstiles in Baton Rouge.
Tiger Stadium is one of the few football fields in America that marks the yard lines in five-yard intervals. LSU is also one of a handful of teams that wears white jerseys at home. Sporting Royal Purple-and-Old Gold endzones, Death Valley’s perfectly manicured gridiron is a spectacle. It also features one of the coolest midfield logos in sports — the iconic Eye of the Tiger. LSU’s stadium includes retro “H-Style,” or offset, goalposts as opposed to the “sling-shot” or “tuning fork” style used by other schools. The Tigers charging the field beneath them on a steamy autumn Saturday night is a sight to behold.
Mike the Tiger is one of the best live mascots in college sports. A Bengal-Siberian mix, this fierce Felidae lives in a $3 million habitat in the shadows of Tiger Stadium. Until 2016, Mike patrolled the sidelines in a cage on wheels topped by LSU cheerleaders and was parked in the southeast end of the stadium, forcing opposing players to run around him to get to the field. On football Saturdays, Mike the Tiger dines on a pre-game snack of meat laid out in the shape of the opponent’s mascot.
There are very few stadiums in America worth a touchdown, but the Bayou Bengals have that advantage at Tiger Stadium.
The scene in Baton Rouge is far and away the best in college football, due in no small part to the pregame festivities. In 1996, ESPN named LSU the Best Tailgate in America. The party, which begins for many on Friday night, is a Cajun-food wonderland. The air hangs heavy with the smell of bourbon and spices and Tiger fans pride themselves in the spread: gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp creole, and crawfish etouffee. One unique tradition is to “cook the enemy,” which means serving the opponent’s mascot. The Florida game brings grilled gator, roast pig is served when Arkansas visits, and “Dumbo gumbo” is generously ladled for the annual tilt with Alabama.
“It’s what you’d expect out of Baton Rouge,” said FOX’s Erin Andrews of the tailgate parties at LSU. “These people are serious and they are legit and they’re ready to go.”
The Golden Band from Tiger Land is one of the most respected bands in college football. Prior to kickoff, the team and the band march down Victory Hill into the stadium, where the din is deafening. The crescendo builds as Tiger Stadium public address announcer Dan Borne rings out his weather prediction “the chance of rain…never.” Then come the words that send goosebumps the size of Mardis Gras beads down the spines of LSU fans everywhere. As the team enters the field through a tunnel formed by the band, Borne bellows, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the sun has found its home in the Western sky, it is now Saturday night in Death Valley…Here come your Fighting Tigers of LSU!”
Taking in a game at Tiger Stadium is a must for every college football fan. “I love LSU just a little bit more than the others,” explained Dodd, who listed Tiger Stadium at the top of his list of the Top 25 college stadiums in America. “The heat, the humidity, Mike the Tiger and a stadium so loud you can feel it in your chest cavity.”
Scott Van Pelt visited Tiger Stadium for the first time when he attended the LSU-Alabama game in 2012. On the Monday after the game, he said told his listeners on ESPN Radio, “I had nothing but being a sports fan on the line on Saturday night. And I’ve never seen something that felt like that. I was told it was going to be awesome. It was better than I was told it was. There is nothing I would put ahead of it that I’ve EVER seen in any sport. When you’re there, you don’t want to miss anything.”
LSU went 7-0 at Tiger Stadium in 2019 and earned a spot in the College Football Playoff. Tomorrow, the top-ranked Tigers take on No.4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET.