In the glory days of Shaquille O'neal and Chris Jackson, the name "Deaf Dome" was more appropriate. Rabid Tiger fans packed the house on a nightly basis and produced deafening noise as LSU was ranked among the top teams in the nation.
However, when the program went south in the twilight of the Dale Brown era, the fans stayed away and the adoring masses of the past were reduced to only die-hard basketball fans who remained loyal to the program.
When John Brady took control of the LSU program in 1997, Tiger basketball was near shambles. Losing records and an empty arena were commonplace. Folks were so happy the football team was back on the right track under Gerry DiNardo, no one cared enough to even darken the door of the PMAC.
In his third season at the helm, Brady managed to put it all together and won an SEC title. Even with the right players at the right time, it took Brady's team to go 13-0 before the fans began to show up. At times, the probation riddled Tigers looked like LSU of old with overflow crowds filling the PMAC to the rafters.
Almost 14,000 fans turned out to see the Tigers lose to Ball State a year ago in the NIT. Playing inspired basketball, LSU seemed to win over the crowd as fans vowed to return to open this season.
However, fans soon forgot and LSU struggled to draw 6,000 a game throughout the early stages of this season. Even ESPN's Dick Vitale jumped on Tiger fans as nearly 5,000 seats sat empty on Dec. 21 when the Tigers hosted No. 1 Arizona.
That night, though, the 9,000-plus that showed up may have witnessed the turning point of the John Brady era. LSU's 1-point upset of the nation's top-ranked ball club showed this team may very well be for real.
A loss on the road at Georgia stung a bit, but Tiger fans turned out in droves for Saturday's SEC home opener against No. 7 Mississippi State. The largest crowd of the season, 10,442 in attendance, witnessed LSU's second upset of a top 10 team in three weeks as the Tigers blew out the Bulldogs 85-72.
A restless crowd got going early when LSU seized control of the game. Bulldog-friendly officiating further fueled the "Deaf Dome" crowd's fire when the Tigers' Jaime Lloreda was tagged with a phantom technical foul. Boos and hisses rattled the rafters as LSU carried a six-point lead into the half.
The Tigers fed from the crowd's energy and went on to hammer home the 13-point win much to the delight of the frenzied throng.
Brady himself admitted the crowd plays a major role in both huge upset victories this season.
"We appreciate the crowd as a coaching staff and I think our team was deserving and it was an outstanding night for us in a lot of ways," Brady said. "I appreciate everyone being here and helping us out. I said before that if we have a good supportive and enthusiastic crowd, then it helps our team player better than it is. Certainly the crowd was a big part of that tonight and also our students who are not even in school come back like they did and help us win the game and I am appreciative of that."
Intimidating home crowds are one of the main reasons winning on the road in the SEC is so tough.
"It is just tough," Brady said about playing on the road. "With crowds like this, you have to be a mature, tough-minded team that can block everything out and be able to concentrate on everything that needs to be done to win that game. It is all about execution and relaxing enough and having confidence to make shots."
Whether or not LSU fans are witnessing the magical return of the storied "Deaf Dome," that is unknown. It's not quite time to start writing letters to Skip Bertman asking for the restoration of the "Deaf Meter," but it is obvious Brady and his team are headed into the right direction of returning the PMAC to the halcyon days of Tiger Basketball.