News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mark Bennett B-Sides

October 8, 2009

MARK BENNETT: Larry Legend Foundation working to raise money for Larry Bird statue

TERRE HAUTE — Consider the irony, if Brad Fenton succeeds.

What if, after all these years, the guy who leads a campaign to finally put a statue of Larry Bird in front of Hulman Center wasn’t even alive in 1979?

It could happen.

Fenton is a student at Bird’s alma mater, Indiana State University. He’s a junior, studying business administration. He was born in 1985 — six years after Bird led the unheralded Sycamores to the nation’s No. 1 ranking, a 33-1 record, and a loss in the most ballyhooed NCAA Final ever to Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans. Fenton learned about it all from his parents and grandparents. His mom, Christi, was an ISU student during that wild, once-in-a-lifetime era.

This 24-year-old appreciates the historic footprint Bird left on the campus and the community.

Of course, older folks know the aftermath of the ’79 season, too. ISU has gone through seven coaches since then. Only one — Royce Waltman — produced winning records. A few thousand people typically attend games, compared to the capacity crowds 30 years ago. Some members of the Sycamores’ NCAA finalist team carry hard feelings over snubs and missteps by the university’s past administrations.

ISU’s runner-up trophy comes with three decades worth of baggage.

Thankfully, those troubles aren’t distracting Fenton’s focus.

“I don’t care about any of that,” he said. “Larry Bird did something special in 1979. He put ISU on the map, and I think it would be great to honor him.”

So Fenton formed the Larry Legend Foundation. He created a Web site, www.larrylegendfoundation.com. His goal is to erect a 13-foot statue of Bird, crafted by Vigo County sculptor Bill Wolfe, in front of the south entrance to Hulman Center. Once the $135,000 project is done, additional proceeds would be used to create an annual Larry Legend Foundation scholarship for an ISU student. Last month, Fenton set up a table outside the Hulman Student Union and got 157 people — “97 percent” students — to sign a petition backing the effort and join a mailing list. Fenton figures a student-driven project has the best chance of appealing to Bird himself, who has sounded hesitant — even resistant — to previous suggestions of a statue in his honor at ISU.

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