Convicted embezzler's name on scoreboard embarrasses Cal Poly

The scoreboard at Alex G. Spanos Stadium sports a Moriarty Enterprises advertisement at the top.
The scoreboard at Alex G. Spanos Stadium sports a Moriarty Enterprises advertisement at the top. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Even before financier Al Moriarty entered a no contest plea Monday to embezzlement and other white-collar crimes, Cal Poly was being pressured to remove his name from the scoreboard at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.

The university was right to let the criminal case run its course; our justice system is based on the principle that an accused is innocent until proven guilty. But the criminal case is now settled, so why is Moriarty’s name still on the scoreboard?

Cal Poly offered only a vague explanation Monday afternoon, though it followed up Tuesday with this statement from Carlos Cordova, university legal counsel:

“After Mr. Moriarty filed for bankruptcy, his contractual ownership interest in the naming rights to the scoreboard was transferred by law to the bankruptcy trustee, who now owns those rights. Under bankruptcy law, the university is precluded from unilaterally acting to remove Mr. Moriarty’s name from the sign. Cal Poly would like to reach an agreement with the bankruptcy trustee concerning the continued presence of the Moriarty name on the scoreboard, and discussions to that end are ongoing. We will not comment further on those discussions, as they are considered confidential settlement communications under the law.”

In other words, the name stays up for now, though for the life of us we can’t understand why the university couldn’t at least temporarily cover up the name until the issue is settled.

This was, after all, no minor lapse of judgment: Moriarty was accused of running a $22 million Ponzi scheme that cheated investors out of life savings. It’s outrageous that he would do this on the one hand, while donating $600,000 toward the purchase of an electronic scoreboard at Cal Poly on the other.

We can only imagine how hurtful it must be to Moriarty’s victims to know that Cal Poly continues to honor him in this way — even if the university is doing so against its will.

It’s also an embarrassment to the university’s athletic teams, its student body, its alumni — indeed, the entire Cal Poly community — to have the name of a convicted embezzler so prominently displayed.

Universities should name their facilities in honor of those who have set an example that students should follow — not for those who simply have the ability to write a check.

Cal Poly must push to remove the Moriarty name from the scoreboard as soon as possible. The university also should commit to returning all money Moriarty donated to Cal Poly, so those contributions can eventually be returned to the victims.

That won’t come close to compensating them for their losses, but it would be a gesture of goodwill and a sign that Cal Poly values integrity far more than the bottom line — even if Al Moriarty did not.

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