Standout Player At Indiana State
In 1974 Bird headed to Indiana University, where he intended to play for legendary coach Bobby Knight. Before the season began, however, Bird felt so intimidated by the school's large size that he decided to drop out. After working for a year on the city's road crew in French Lick, Bird enrolled at nearby Indiana State University (ISU) in Terre Haute. On November 8, 1975 he entered into a brief marriage with Janet Condra, whom he had known since childhood. The couple divorced in 1976 but had a daughter, Corrie, born during a brief reconciliation in 1977. Bird's personal life was also marked by the suicide of his father in 1975. Now divorced, Claude Bird was depressed about his inability to make child support payments to his family and took his life in the hope that they would benefit from the Social Security payments available after his death.
NCAA rules forced Bird to refrain from playing for ISU during his first year there. When he joined the team for the 1976-77 season, he helped the Sycamores to a 25-3 record and created phenomenal interest in ISU's basketball team, with home games selling out as soon as tickets became available. Although he was drafted by the Boston Celtics when he was a junior at ISU, Bird insisted on completing his senior year. The Sycamores ended up winning thirty-three straight games and would have had an undefeated season had it not been for the 75-64 loss to Michigan State University (MSU) in the 1979 NCAA finals. The game received some of the highest-ever ratings for a college sporting event and made media stars out of Bird and his MSU rival, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who dropped out of college to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. Bird finished his B.S. degree in physical education at ISU in 1979 and also received the John Wooden Award as Collegiate Player of the Year from the Los Angeles Athletic Association. When he completed his college athletic career, Bird ranked fifth on the NCAA list of all-time scorers. Before leaving ISU, Bird also began dating Dinah Mattingly. The couple would marry on September 30, 1989 and have two children, Connor and Mariah.