Clemson started using the moniker almost a decade before LSU did
It’s hard to believe, but South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp took a shot at Clemson despite the fact his first two teams at South Carolina have been beat by a combined score of 90-17. However, those facts did not keep the Gamecocks’ coach from running his mouth earlier this week.
While speaking to the Gaston County Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony Monday evening, Muschamp threw some shade at Clemson’s Death Valley when telling a story about his time working with Nick Saban at LSU.
“We were at the REAL Death Valley, not the one somewhere else,” he said.
If getting beat by an average score of 45-9 in his first two years to Clemson is not enough to keep Muschamp quiet then maybe setting the record straight to the Gamecocks’ head coach, LSU and the rest of college football will do.
The fact is Clemson is college football’s REAL Death Valley and it is time for Muschamp and everyone else to know who the real imposter is. LSU even knows this to be true. It is written in one of their history books.
Below is a story I wrote on December 10, 2012 prior to Clemson’s game against LSU in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl. I spoke with several people on the matter and researched the origin stories on how both school’s came to earn the nickname. The story clearly details Clemson started using the Death Valley moniker almost a decade before LSU ever did.
The facts of the story prove Clemson is the REAL Death Valley.
The Tigers netted 516 yards on the ground as 14 different players carried the ball on September 22, 1945. Clemson freshman Bobby Gage, who went on to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, led the Tigers with 144 yards, including an 88-yard touchdown run. All 11 of Clemson’s touchdowns came on the ground that afternoon, which is a record that still stands today.
“After we were beaten so badly in 1945, Coach McMillian and us players referred to the Clemson trip as going ‘to Death Valley,’” said Gault, now 83 years old and residing in Clinton, S.C. “I’m not sure when the press picked up on it, but I’m sure it was real soon.”
The press picked up on it because McMillian would tell them, “I’m taking my boys to Death Valley,” when he spoke about the Clemson trip every year. Presbyterian and Clemson opened the season every year from 1930-1957.
Gault was a player and coach during most of those years, and never did the PC teams he was on come close to beating Clemson, which became relevant on the national scene in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
“I was 16 years old as a freshman when I came to PC, and playing in Death Valley was special,” said Gault, who was also the head coach at Presbyterian from 1962-’84. “I do remember this more than anything – it was hot, and I mean real hot at Clemson.
Clemson’s Legendary head coach Frank Howard soon picked up on the moniker “Death Valley” and started referring to Memorial Stadium as such when he went to IPTAY meetings or when speaking to the press. The earliest accounts of Howard using the nickname came in the late 1940s and early ’50s when the Tigers were making regular trips to the Orange Bowl and Gator Bowl and were a national player in college football.
Tiger Field was called “Deaf Valley”
In 1957, a young athlete by the name of Billy Cannon made his way to LSU. A local kid from Baton Rouge, Cannon was one of the more sought after players in the country. He scored 39 touchdowns his senior year of high school, allowing him to earn All-American honors.
At LSU, Cannon lived up to the hype. As a three-year starter in 1957, ’58 and ’59 he set all sorts of records, while leading the Tigers to their first national championship in 1958 and winning the Heisman Trophy in 1959.
Trailing No. 3 Ole Miss, 3-0, late in the game, Cannon had his Heisman moment when he took a punt at his own 11-yard line, broke seven tackles before he got to his own 40, and then ran away from everyone the final 60 yards for the game-winning score.
In Marty Mule’s 1993 book called the Eye of the Tiger, One Hundred Years of LSU Football he describes that night and at the same time speaks to the origin of how Tiger Stadium became known as “Death Valley.”
Mule wrote: “The noise level generated by Cannon’s run is to have supposed to have brought people scurrying from their homes for miles around to see what happened, part of why Tiger Field was dubbed ‘Deaf Valley.’
The name ‘Death Valley’ – which was used first at Clemson – was picked when the original term was not properly enunciated, and misunderstood.”
In other words, LSU never intended Tiger Field to be called “Death Valley.” The locals could not say “Deaf Valley” correctly. Also, it proves Tiger Field’s nickname did not come until many years after Clemson began using the moniker “Death Valley.”
Former LSU and South Carolina head coach Paul Dietzel confirmed Mule’s writings. Dietzel coached the Tigers from 1955-’61 and he said the nickname “Death Valley” was not used for Tiger Field while he was the head coach in Baton Rouge.
So if you are a Gamecock fan that is reading this, pass this along to your head coach so he can at least know all the facts before he takes a shot at Clemson’s Death Valley.
Also, remind him of the last time he went to the REAL Death Valley, Deshaun Watson threw a record six touchdown passes in a 56-7 Clemson beatdown. That alone should have kept him quiet on the matter, but I guess Muschamp does not like using facts when he tells a story.