On Jan. 26, 2017, Travis Etienne stood behind a table upon which laid four hats that bore the logos of Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M and Clemson. The four-star running back from Jennings, La., proclaimed, “I’ll be taking my talents to the real Death Valley,” as he picked up the Clemson hat.
And that was Travis Etienne dumping a gallon-sized bucket of salt into the wounds of LSU fans.
Was he right? Is Clemson’s Memorial Stadium the real Death Valley? Frankly, who cares? The two schools share a mascot; who cares if they share a stadium nickname? The history, however, is interesting.
Which school was the first to proclaim their stadium as Death Valley?
Clemson’s Memorial Stadium was called Death Valley in 1948 by Presbyterian College Lonnie McMillian because his teams couldn’t win there. Shortly thereafter, Clemson players, coaches and fans began referring to it as Death Valley, and in 1966, head coach Frank Howard was given a rock (Howard’s Rock), which sits atop The Hill from Death Valley, Calif.
It wasn’t until 1959 that LSU’s Tiger Stadium was first called Death Valley. Previously known as Deaf Valley because of the crowd noise, the name transformed to Death Valley after the 1959 Sugar Bowl in which LSU beat Clemson.
“No one called it Death Valley here until after we played in the Sugar Bowl,” former LSU sports information director Bud Johnson said.
MORE: Buyouts for CFB Coaches