A news service poll once named Louisiana State University's Tiger Stadium the most dreaded stadium for visiting teams to play. But a visit to Louisiana State on any weekend the Tiger football team is playing should be anything but feared.
The stadium and campus make for a great fall weekend jaunt, and can give some insight into the Southeast's strong college football culture.
To folks like me who are outside observers to this spectacle, college football can be a bit difficult to understand. To the devoted fans - like my brother-in-law, who follows the University of Georgia Bulldogs with an undeniable passion - it seems almost like a religion.
That same devotion to college football can be seen in Louisiana State's Tiger Stadium. Better known as "Death Valley" to non-Tiger fans, the stadium was built in the 1920s. Since then, it has been renovated five times and gone from a 12,000-seat stadium to a gargantuan structure that holds more than 90,000 people.
It's Saturday night in Tiger Stadium
If you arrive early enough on the day of a game, you can participate in a legendary tailgate party in the parking lots near the stadium, complete with the smells of Louisiana's finest Cajun cuisine cooking. Before you go, check out CollegeGear.com to order an LSU Tailgate To Go Tigers party pack.
When you go to a game at Tiger Stadium, expect the announcer to get the crowd on its feet by yelling, "It's Saturday night in Death Valley and here come your Fighting Tigers of LSU!"
The thunderous response from the crowd is like no other - it's no wonder opposing teams are intimidated.
Perhaps the greatest description of a Tiger Stadium experience is from Sports Illustrated magazine's Douglas Looney, who said, "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."
A stadium rich in tradition, history
To know Tiger Stadium is to also know its history. The most memorable game in recent years took place in October 1988 in a game against Auburn University. When quarterback Tommy Hodson threw the winning touchdown to receiver Eddie Fuller, Tiger fans cheered so loudly they caused an earth tremor that registered on LSU's Department of Geology & Geophysics' seismograph meter across campus.
But that wasn't the loudest night in the stadium's history. Some say that night was the September 1979 game against Southern Cal - the Tigers didn't win but the decibel meter was off the scale from the game's kickoff to its final gun. Many LSU fans claim it was louder at an October 1997 game, when the Tigers beat the No. 1 Florida by a score of 28 to 21.
Life off the gridiron
Believe it or not, there is life after football on LSU's campus. The LSU Tiger Cage is a new habitat located on the campus where the team's mascot, Mike the Tiger, likes to frolic. The Tiger Cage is a 15,000-square-foot environment with a live oak tree, waterfall and stream set against a rocky background.
If you stick around town after game day, some of LSU's museums are open on Sundays. The LSU Union Art Gallery, located in the university's Union building, is open from 1 to 5 p.m. each Sunday. The gallery features works of local and national artists.
Venture beyond the campus to explore the area's natural beauty on a swamp tour. Self-guided nature trails wind through the Bluebonnet Swamp, a 65-acre cypress-tupelo swamp. Kids will also enjoy a visit to the Baton Rouge Zoo, where they can catch a glimpse of more tigers. More than 1,800 animals are on display at the zoo, which also features an Otter Pond, L'Aquarium de Louisiane and a White Tiger Tram ride.
•LSU Tailgate Party
•Mike the Tiger
•Baton Rouge Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
www.visitbatonrouge.com, 800-LA ROUGE
Did you know?
•Louisiana State University's Tiger Stadium seats 91,644 and is the fourth-largest on-campus football stadium in the country.
•The date Oct. 8, 1988 was dubbed "The Night the Tigers Moved the Earth" because LSU fans caused a tremor after winning that game.
•The Tigers have drawn more than 15 million fans to the stadium since 1957.
•More than 90,000 fans attended Tiger Stadium for six home games in 2002, including 92,012 for the Alabama game, the second-highest attended game in school history.
•While LSU's athletic dormitory (Broussard Hall) was being renovated during the fall of 1986, the LSU football players lived in Tiger Stadium.
Sources: Louisiana State University, NCAA football