It's been more than one year since the protestors left the Bryce Jordan Center.
Fifty-two weeks free of national scrutiny.
More than 365 days since rainbow flags and banners reading "Rene's still here, why isn't Jen?" and "Personal foul, Rene Portland!" dotted the arena.
Nearly a year after Rene Portland's controversial resignation on March 23 amid allegations of discrimination, a new atmosphere has surrounded the Penn State women's basketball team this season, and it's largely because of one woman: Coquese Washington.
The first-year head coach has brought new life and enthusiasm to the program and has taken heat off the university following two years of discrimination lawsuits.
Equal rights groups across the country have praised Penn State for hiring Washington, said Helen Carroll, sports project director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).
"Hiring Washington has definitely begun a new era for Penn State basketball," Carroll said. "Part of that era definitely has to do with embracing respect for difference, and I think that has to do with race and embracing everyone.
"It's pretty historical for Penn State, and I would like to give them a lot of kudos for hiring Washington because they really hired a great person."
The "new era" refers to the shedding of Portland, the former Lady Lion coach.
After the final game of the 2004-05 season, Portland, the most successful coach in school history, dismissed third-leading scorer Jen Harris from the team. In October 2005, Harris filed a lawsuit claiming Portland harassed her based on race, gender and perceived sexual orientation.
The lawsuit was settled out of court in February 2007, and Portland resigned the next month. Former Portland players Suzie McConnell-Serio and Susan Robinson Fruchtl and a Penn State spokesperson did not return calls and e-mails by press time.
With so much going on off the court last season, the Lady Lions struggled to a 13-16 record. But Lady Lion guard Tyra Grant said the issue was never mentioned nor was it a distraction.
"All that other stuff, that off-the-court stuff, I don't think it really affected us that much," Grant said two weeks ago. "It really didn't affect me much."
But the on-court decline didn't compare to the hit the university took nationally. Local news picked up the story, national newspapers wrote editorials blasting Penn State, and ESPN ran an "Outside the Lines" episode about Portland.
Penn State was portrayed as supportive of a bigot especially because Portland spoke out against lesbian recruitment in 1986.
"I will not have it in my program," Portland told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I bring it up, and the kids are so relieved, and the parents are so relieved."
But in 1991, Penn State prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation from all its programs, meaning Portland could not enforce her "no lesbians" policy. The university brought in Pat Griffin, an equal rights activist, to run a mandatory workshop on homophobia for all Penn State coaches.
But Portland's resignation combined with one new hire has changed the perception of the university and has brought the prestige back to a once-proud program.
"There shouldn't be any negative press for Penn State," Carroll said. "I feel really happy for Penn State because they have such a dynamic and embracing head coach."
When Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley announced Washington as the next head coach of the Lady Lions on April 23, 2007, he said she was the perfect fit.
He said both the university and Washington uphold the same ideals and morals on and off the court.
"My values align with the university's policies and the university's values in terms of discrimination, so I don't really see that being an issue," Washington said that day.
But the hiring had a far greater impact than simply wins or values. Washington embraces diversity and differences, activists say, and understands the importance of being a role model in the community.
She's also a player's coach. During the summer, Washington and her players ate lunch together at the HUB-Robeson Center. At the season-opening media day, she joked and laughed with her players. Instead of raising her voice at practice, players say Washington teaches and explains.
"Coquese is always just trying to keep us up and keep us positive," sophomore guard Meggan Quinn said earlier this season.
The differences between Portland and Washington go beyond the court, which is something members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and its allies (LGBTA) said is a welcome change for the program.
Allison Subasic, Penn State's LGBTA Resource Center director, did not want to comment on Portland's resignation but had nothing but praise for Washington.
"Coach Washington is a talented coach that has much to offer the Penn State University community and the players on her team," Subasic said. "We wish her the best of luck in the next season."
The hire did more than just give Penn State a basketball coach. It gave the university a chance to change its national image and helped advance equality in women's athletics, Griffin said.
She added Penn State should be proud of its coaching decision not only because Washington has great credentials but also because it gives the university a chance to start anew after years of fog.
"Portland's resignation was a huge victory for fairness and respect in collegiate sport," Griffin said. "The Penn State team has been competing under an ugly cloud for years. The team, under Coquese Washington, deserves a fresh start, and I wish them well."