Penn State freshmen Bailey Gibson and Mary Botch sipped hot tea on the steps of Old Main as a student-driven rally in celebration of the end of sanctions against the university got underway Friday night.
The quiet was interrupted by the sound of a “Joe Paterno” chant after freshman Marty Powers climbed the steps of Old Main carrying a life-size cutout of Joe Paterno.
“Happy Valley just got happier today,” Gibson said. “Everything that Penn State has gone through is over, and we just wanted to make sure we didn’t miss this rally. It’s probably the last one, and we wanted to enjoy it.”
Powers said the crowd was smaller than the crowd at rallies last fall after the bowl ban was lifted and when the Penn State football team beat Rutgers.
“Maybe people don’t care as much this time or it’s the cold, but this is kind of like a return to normalcy.”
Students threw 112 balloons into the air to represent the 112 victories that were restored Friday when Penn State trustees voted in favor of a settlement with the NCAA over the sanctions imposed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Earlier Friday in Harrisburg, state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman announced the end of the litigation against the NCAA.
And with that came the voiding of all sanctions against Penn State and the restoration of 112 football victories, 111 of which were under the late coach Joe Paterno.
State College Police Chief King said an upbeat crowd of 400 to 500 people moved the “celebratory” rally from campus to the downtown area known as Beaver Canyon on Friday night. But there were no reports of damage or any other problems, as of press time, and the crowd was respectful, he said.
There’s just one thing lacking from the celebration, students said, and one more potential reason to rally: “Bring back Joe Paterno’s statue,” Powers said.