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Students rally at Penn State, happy Paterno gets wins back

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Hundreds of Penn State students rallied and marched Friday to celebrate the career of late football coach Joe Paterno and the NCAA’s agreement to restore 112 team victories deducted amid the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.

About 300 people gathered outside the university’s administration building in State College for a subdued rally lasting 20 minutes. They said Paterno didn’t deserve to lose his title as major college football’s winningest coach and they’re glad he has it back.

The crowd grew to about 500 as it marched to the nearby Beaver Canyon apartment area, where someone projected a huge photo of Paterno onto the side of a building. Other people chanted Paterno’s name and ”We are Penn State!”

Earlier, as word of Penn State’s new settlement with the NCAA reached the campus of 35,000, many students said they hoped it would help the university continue to mend its reputation, which was shattered with Sandusky’s arrest in 2011 and subsequent allegations Paterno and top university officials helped conceal the abuse.

”We need to restore our program back to its past glory because we have such a strong and well-respected program and, unfortunately, with the scandal, it destroyed us,” said T.J. Lindsay, a student from Darian, Connecticut.

Paterno, the face of Penn State football since 1966, was ousted a few days after Sandusky’s arrest. He died in January 2012 at age 85.

Steven Choranski, a student season ticket holder from Bordentown, New Jersey, said the NCAA overstepped its bounds in its initial response to the scandal.

”It’s nice to see them coming back and giving back what they shouldn’t have taken back in the first place,” he said.

Months ago downtown, giant posters spelling out ”409,” the number of victories Paterno earned before the NCAA took more than 100 of them away, appeared in the window of the Student Book Store. The posters bear about 12,000 signatures, store owner John Lindo said.

”We’re happy for the Paterno family and the Penn State fans in general who have been hoping this would happen for quite a while. It’s a really good day for Penn State,” Lindo said Friday.

In an evening game against Michigan State, Penn State hockey players put ”409” stickers on their helmets. Basketball players planned to wear ”409” T-shirts in warmups Saturday.

Sandusky, the university’s former defensive football coach, was convicted of abusing 10 boys, some on campus, and is in prison. He maintains his innocence, acknowledging he showered with boys but saying he didn’t molest them.

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