Tucson's Treasures

Tucson’s Treasures: Ali Farhang

AllSportsTucson.com is running a series of articles on local sports figures who are making an impact on the community. You can refer to this link to catch up on some of our previous profiles of those who mean a lot to Tucsonans.

The multi-faceted Ali Farhang paused and laughed heartily when asked how he’s holding up with the COVID-19 pandemic supposedly slowing down all of our lives.

“Hold on, let me close my door so I don’t bother people,” an incredulous Farhang said from his Farhang & Medcoff law office late Friday afternoon.

“As a business owner, I’m dealing with the same issues a lot of business owners are dealing with, whether it’s making sure that the business endures and succeeds, and also keeping the people that work here safe and making their health a paramount concern,” Farhang said.

“And then taking that and working with all of our clients and making sure that we do everything we can to help them be able to survive this and deal with the very novel issues that they’re all facing, the business owner and lawyer hat definitely has been keeping me busy over the last 120 days.”

The time we are in proves nothing can slow down Farhang. The wheels definitely are still turning. What he has learned since the COVID-19 pandemic broke in March is that “people must be able to adjust and be patient.”

Ali Farhang is the founder and chairman of the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl since its inception in 2015 (Farhang photo)

“Those who can adjust and be patient are the ones who will get out of this with the least amount of brain damage,” he said. “For those of us who like to control our surroundings and are less patient, I think it’s been a good lesson in living in the present instead of the future and learning to control what you can control and trying not to have too much anxiety over the things you can’t control.”

His business portfolio shows that Farhang is in control of many ventures in Tucson, a lifestyle that demonstrates his belief that Tucson is an “untapped gold mine.”

The hats he speaks of fills the rack:

Father and husband

Farhang, a native Tucsonan who graduated from Sabino High School, was named a 2019 Father of the Year by the Father’s Day Council Tucson. His wife Lia is also an attorney who understands his busy lifestyle. His son Xavier is a sophomore at Arizona who is a men’s basketball student manager. His daughter Soren is a sophomore at Salpointe.

While Farhang does not always take himself seriously, he is sincere about his family and providing for them.

Ali Farhang with his wife Lia, son Xavier, daughter Soren and family dog (Farhang photo)

“Every time I tell my kids something that is in conflict with what they are desiring, they say thanks and then they do the air quotes, ‘Father of the Year.’ I’m not sure that (Father of the Year honors) ended up working out for me,” he said, chuckling. “That was really very humbling and I was very appreciative of that recognition. The way (BizTucson magazine publisher and editor) Steve Rosenberg told me with my wife and kids around, it was a real special moment.”

His daughter gave him a bear hug when Rosenberg delivered the news, prompting Farhang to become emotional.

Farhang keeps himself out of his Twitter handle, labeling it after his kids — @SorenandXavier.

“Having my son and daughter both at home and being able to spend more time with them has been phenomenal,” Farhang said. “Just being able to be their dad is probably good for them and me. I get to spend a lot of time with my daughter and have fun doing things that I maybe have not done in the past, like looking at TikTok dances. Taking her to cheer practice at 7 o’clock in the morning has been really cool.”

Managing Partner of Farhang & Medcoff Law Firm

Farhang and Medcoff founded the law firm in 2008.  After earning his bachelor’s degree with a major in Political Science and minor in English at Arizona in 1993, Farhang attended the University of Cambridge in England and later earned his law degree from the University of Denver College of Law.

He is an AV-rated attorney who practices labor and employment law, business consultation, commercial litigation and personal injury defense.

Ali Farhang and Timothy Medcoff (Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce photo)

“I think living a fulfilled life is about the connections you make,” Farhang said. “I enjoy surrounding myself with people that I think will make me better, or bring some sort of enrichment and value to my life. My law partner Tim Medcoff, I couldn’t have found a better law partner.

“He’s very smart and meticulous. He’s made me better. In a lot of ways, a lot of my weaknesses when we started this law firm 11 years ago, he’s made them into strengths just by association.”

NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl Founder and Chairman Since 2015

Throughout this time of uncertainty with college football because of COVID-19, Farhang said his NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl board of directors and staff have responded well. Meetings have gone from once a week before COVID-19 to now once a month, although the executive committee has kept in communication often.

What the NCAA and conferences decide about football in the fall will obviously impact the operations of the Arizona Bowl, which is affilated with the Mountain West Conference and the Mid-American Conference.

“From the indications that I get (from the NCAA), I think we’re going to have some sort of clarity by the beginning of August. I mean, at some point, you have to make a decision,” Farhang said.

“As a bowl, we have to prepare for a lot of different options. If there is a season in the fall, and there is a bowl game, we might have to do it without a crowd or with a limited crowd. Then there are the tailgating and team events. How are we going to do what we’ve always done? How are we going to do it in a less grandiose capacity?”

Ali Farhang interviewed by KVOA’s David Kelly (NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl photo)

Farhang said he and the Arizona Bowl’s executives are prepared for all scenarios, including the potential loss of the game and its events this year.

“We have contingency plans for everything from if things are going to be exactly how they’ve always been by Dec. 31 to we get pushed to the spring or no bowl game,” he said.

Similar to his comment about everyone needing to adjust and be patient at this time, Farhang said college athletics can take this opportunity to “have some sober reflection on being better as far as collegiate sports is concerned.”

That time of reflection could extend to the spring and thereby adversely affect the likelihood of a bowl season. Farhang said the Arizona Bowl will be prepared to look forward to 2021 if that is the case.

“We’re in a great position,” he said. “If there is no bowl game this year, we’re prepared to endure that and we’ll be back next year — 100 percent.”

Farhang spoke with a calm resolve about that potential scenario, which is in stark contrast to his demeanor heading into the bowl season the previous five years. When attempting to draw the best possible participants to the bowl, Farhang has become visibly nervous on the phone with conference and team representatives.

He wants the Arizona Bowl to flourish that much, similar to how he cares about doing what is necessary for his kids to succeed.

Ali Farhang basking in the fruits of his labor with the Arizona Bowl (Jeff Scurran photo)

“When I kept hearing that Tucson lacks for creativity and can never have a bowl game again, when that opportunity arose, I jumped at it,” said Farhang.

Upon returning to Tucson in 2001 after five years of law school in Denver, he made it a goal to bring a bowl game back to Tucson after the attempts of the Copper Bowl and Insight.com Bowl at Arizona Stadium shifted to Phoenix.

His Fiesta Bowl committee membership and working relationship with the Arizona Sports and Entertainment Commission planted the seed for the Arizona Bowl to come to fruition in 2015. Farhang sold the ASEC on the value of bringing back a bowl game to Tucson.

The Arizona Bowl serves as a nonprofit enterprise that has donated more than $4 million in proceeds to local charities since its inception.

“We’ve created a board of 12 of the most prominent leaders in our community who have done amazing things and we have a full committee and a collection of volunteers that care deeply about the bowl of almost 75 people,” Farhang said. “All these great people are working together with a common cause. When we went to shelter in place when COVID really hit us in March, our board unanimously came to the determination that we need to call all of our partners and everybody that we work with in the community and not ask them for anything, but ask what we can do for them.”

The Arizona Bowl has been part of a Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona drive and providing school supplies through the Boys and Girls Club of Tucson, among other charitable ventures in the last few months.

“People on the committee and our board members have just been fantastic,” Farhang said. “When we say the Arizona Bowl is for us, about us and by us, you can see it through these people how committed they are, how they live it and how genuine it is. I just love being around people like that.”

Minority owner of the Tucson Sugar Skulls

Farhang associated himself with Kevin and Cathy Guy as a minority owner of the Tucson Sugar Skulls’ Indoor Football League operations in 2018 because he saw it is an opportunity to lead an effort to fill a void of professional sports in Tucson.

Farhang is so beholden to the idea of pro sports in Tucson that he tried to lure the Raiders to play their home games last season at Arizona Stadium before moving to Las Vegas this fall. He discussed the idea with Raiders team president Marc Badain, whose team eventually signed an extension with the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum for the games in 2019,

Ali Farhang with Tucson Sugar Skulls co-owner Kevin Guy (Sugar Skulls photo)

The idea of bringing back major-league baseball to Tucson for spring training is another endeavor Farhang wants to tackle.

“Baseball will be back in Tucson — it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” Farhang said. “I see a lot of opportunities in Tucson. It was listed as one of the top 10 markets coming out of the pandemic (by Forbes magazine because of its growing college-town status). I see a lot of prosperity coming out of our community. I feel really good about it.”

The Sugar Skulls, whose season was canceled this year because of COVID-19, had an impressive inaugural season in 2019 in which they advanced to the playoffs. A respectable average of 3,574 fans showed up to the Tucson Convention Center.

“From the city’s passion and learning about the game to the ownership group to the coaches and players all coming together, we are poised for a long run of success in Tucson for professional football,” Farhang said.

Tucson High School assistant football coach

After serving as an assistant coach at Salpointe the last few years since his son was part of the football program, Farhang will be part of Justin Argraves’ staff at Tucson High School if a season is played this fall or in the spring.

Farhang is well-versed in the game with a background of being a Sabino High School Hall of Famer “despite being a 6-foot defensive lineman,” he said.

“My senior year, I was the student body president at Sabino,” Farhang said. “I was part of the student committee that helped hire a new head coach. My senior year was the first year Jeff Scurran became the head coach at Sabino.”

Ali Farhang with his son Xavier when Xavier was a senior tight end at Salpointe in 2018 (Farhang photo)

Scurran went on to a legendary career coaching Sabino, Pima College, Santa Rita and Catalina Foothills. Farhang coached under Scurran for two seasons at Catalina Foothills before joining Dennis Bene’s staff at Salpointe. Bene resigned effective at the end of last season after a successful 19-year run at his alma mater. Farhang was welcomed by Argraves to Tucson High soon after.

“Ali is a tremendous overall person, and going back to his time at Salpointe, I respect Dennis Bene and what he did with that program and the coaching staff he put together,” Argraves said. “I talked to Coach Bene about Ali and tried to find a good fit for him here. No. 1, he’s good for the kids. He’s a tremendous coach. He’s been around success.

“He’s highly regarded in the community. It’s just one of those things that I felt very lucky that we were able to land him here over at Tucson High. That was done way before all of this COVID time. So, now, everything’s kind of up in the air.”

Farhang’s involvement with football dates to the Tucson Youth Football days more than 10 years ago when he was the president and coach of the Foothills Chargers.

He speaks proudly of being on Scurran’s staff at Catalina Foothills that helped turn around a program that was 0-20 before Scurran’s arrival to 19-3 his first two seasons.

“I’m excited to help out at a school with such a distinguished history like Tucson High,” Farhang said. “I like Justin a lot. But I don’t know if I’ll be coaching at all this year. We’ll see.”

Radio personality

Before COVID-19 forced the stoppage of athletics, Farhang was a regular with host Justin Spears on the ESPN Tucson radio show weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. He mostly offered his viewpoint on Arizona Wildcats sports. If he had the opportunity to talk about his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers, he would take advantage of that.

He plans to return to that medium once the show resumes.

“I know we’re chomping at the bit to get back on the air,” Farhang said. “Honestly, with everything I do, the one guilty pleasure I have is being on the air with Justin two or three hours a day.”

Ali Farhang with fellow Sugar Skulls owner Kevin Guy, coach Dixie Wooten and ESPN Tucson radio show host Justin Spears (ESPN Tucson photo)

Being a co-host of a radio show also has him out of his comfort zone at times.

“About a year ago, I argued a case in the Ninth Circuit, and I won by the way — just for the record. I prepared for the grandeur of going into the Ninth Circuit building in San Francisco,” Farhang said. “Just to think of the people who have walked through those halls and the justices, some of them who went on to the Supreme Court, it’s in some ways very overwhelming.

“The level of anxiety going through that was not close to the first time I had to do the radio show because Justin couldn’t be there. Just preparing for that, I was sweating the whole time. I think I got better on the radio as time went on. I really appreciate Lotus Broadcasting for giving me that opportunity.”

Community efforts

Aside from his charity work as part of the Arizona Bowl’s executive team, Farhang is active on his own helping those in need in our community.

He volunteers his attorney services for the Boys and Girls Club of Tucson as a pro bono general counsel.

He is also a board member of Sun Corridor and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC). Sun Corridor is dedicated to attracting corporations and businesses to move to Southern Arizona to bolster the local economy and create new jobs. The SALC delves into the policies that affect the community and state that have a “measurable impact on our community,” Farhang said.

Ali Farhang taking in a baseball game with his family (Farhang photo)

SALC claims some of its many successes as revitalizing downtown, improving transportation, keeping a water flow to this community by fighting restricted use of the Central Arizona Project and efforts to improve the environment by bringing together 45 scientists, land managers and government leaders to discuss the growing threat locally of buffelgrass, known as the worst invasive grass in the world.

“Both of those organizations (Sun Corridor and SALC) have done a tremendous amout of good for our community, and I’m very proud to be a member of both of them,” Farhang said. “I think those organizations are going to be significantly and substantially important not only enduring what we are going through right now with COVID-19, but also when we start coming back to some semblance of normalcy. They will work toward the answers of what are we going to do then? What’s next?”

Farhang talks of wanting to take on the mantle of providing what other philanthropic personalities in Tucson such as automobile dealership owner Jim Click and attorney Burt Kinerk have offered the community in the past.

He added that the more people he meets in Tucson, his love grows.

“I have a lot more best friends in Tucson; I just haven’t met them yet,” he said.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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