A steady stream of people stopped to sign special decorations adorning the windows of the Student Book Store this weekend — large placards each emblazoned with a different number: 4, 0 and 9.
The “Honor Joe-Restore the Wins Rally” was organized by The Porterfield Group, a State College-based production company that produced a documentary about the life of late Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno set for release on Nov. 9.
“What we learned over the last days is signing the 409 has been a very emotional thing for people,” said Harry Levant, director of media and product sales for the company.
The numbers are representative of the number of victories Paterno earned as coach before 111 of those were vacated by the NCAA as part of sanctions levied against the university after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
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The numbers will be preserved and taken to NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis next month, where they will be presented to NCAA President Mark Emmert along with a copy of the documentary, titled “The People’s Joe,” and a request that the victories be restored, Levant said.
Penn State students past and present stopped by to sign the numerals Friday and Saturday.
Bob Bortner, of Hanover, signed the 4. Bortner, who graduated from Penn State in 1979, described the event as “awesome” and said he used to encounter Paterno personally as a student. Paterno would walk past Bortner’s dorm and would always say hello, Bortner said.
“I loved the man,” he said Saturday.
Matthew Vine, Class of 2011, signed because of Paterno’s contributions to the university and student body as a whole, such as providing money to help build a portion of the library on campus.
“He wanted everyone to achieve their goals, not just the football team,” Vine said.
John Murphy, of Valley Forge, earned a master’s degree from Penn State and has two daughters who attend the university. Murphy said he always admired Paterno and his family.
“I love what Joe Paterno stood for and I think there was a rush to judgment,” he said.
Sophomores Sabrina Schwebel, of Las Vegas, and Collin Smyth, of Havertown, came to University Park after Paterno was no longer coach. Schwebel signed because she described Paterno as “central” to the university.
Smyth grew up a Penn State fan. His parents are alumni and he attended games as a youth. He said stripping the wins was not fair and that they should be restored because of everyone involved with the games.
“The players worked hard, Joe worked hard and the whole coaching staff worked hard,” he said.
Organizers planned for 10,000 people to participate in the two-day event and had filled one side by Saturday morning.
Former Penn State football players Todd Blackledge and Franco Harris and former Penn State president Graham Spanier were among those who signed the numbers, Porterfield Group CEO Michelle Hagan said.
The documentary is the third Penn State related film produced by the company. The first was called “The Joe We Know,” and also is about Paterno.
The other, “365 Days: A Year in Happy Valley,” is about the year after the Sandusky scandal. Another event with the signs is planned for Nov. 14-15, Levant said.