The Tigers play the most night games in the SEC and have been dominant while playing after the sun goes down. Since the 2015 football season, they have gone 17-4 in night games in Death Valley and 8-3 when those games are against SEC opponents. That may not seem like an impressive record against conference foes, but two of those losses have come to the Alabama Crimson Tide who were in the College Football Playoff and competed for the National Championship.
But how did this all get started? What is the reasoning behind one of the best traditions in NCAA sports?
LSU Night Game History
In 1931, the Tigers had scheduling conflicts with Tulane, who was one of the best programs in the country out of New Orleans and a regular rival. To try and find a way to work out a game between the best programs in the state of Louisiana, Thomas Pickney “Skipper” Heard came up with the idea. Heard was the graduate manager of athletics and former LSU student.
The idea not only paved the way for the Tulane Green Wave football game, but an opportunity for more fans to attend home games. The first time the school hosted a team with their lights came on October 4, 1931 when the Spring Hill Badgers visited Baton Rouge and were beat down with LSU scoring five touchdowns and the Badgers never getting into the end zone, 35-0.
There were hopes that with a game being played at night, the people of Louisiana would be done their work on their plantations and it would also not take place in the late-summer heat of the Bayou. The first night game did not exactly draw tons of fans though, only being played in front on 7,500 people.
How the SEC Saved Night Games
And though we were a long way off from hearing “It’s Saturday Night in Death Valley,” it would only take a few more years for the tradition to take hold. Heard led the way on extensive stadium renovations that greatly increased the capacity of the stadium. In 1932, the Southeastern Conference forming gave LSU like-minded opponents who were close in proximity.
Instead of playing in the Southern Conference, which was made up of teams from as far away as Maryland and Virginia, LSU would be part of a conference with many of the current SEC teams including Alabama, the Florida Gators, Auburn Tigers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, and Ole Miss Rebels. To start, there were 13 teams in the conference.
This was important because each school was much closer geographically and saw football as their most important sport.
But the most important thing was that the Tigers began to build a really good program. In 1935, Bernie Moore took over as head coach and led LSU to two SEC Championships and three Sugar Bowl appearances in his first three seasons with the program.
Even though it wasn’t a successful tradition from the beginning, it didn’t take long to really get going and is now one of the most famous places to play college football when the sun goes down.
During the Les Miles era, the LSU Tigers were holding home game kickoff at night on a regular basis. Realistically, if the television schedules made by networks like CBS and ESPN had been letting Miles decide, each home game probably would have been played at 7 p.m. at the earliest.
Current head coach Ed Orgeron has continued that tradition though, so expect plenty of games under the lights in 2019. Their home games are against Georgia Southern, Northwestern State, Utah State, Florida, Auburn, the Arkansas Razorbacks, and the Texas A&M Aggies.