The Pima County Board of Supervisors recently voted 4-1 to pull funding from the Arizona Bowl after the game named Barstool Sports the title sponsor and broadcaster. Board Chair and District 3 Supervisor Sharon Bronson stated at a meeting on Aug. 10 that she did not “see how, in good conscience, [the county] can give financial support to an organization with a documented history of offensive and inappropriate statements.”
But Steve Christy, the lone board member in favor, said “political grandstanding” is not going to kill the Arizona Bowl or the sponsorship. TD4Tucson (the nonprofit that puts on the game) founder and chairman Ali Farhang says the organization will end up giving “more money to charity this year than we have ever given before … And the Barstool affiliation is definitely a big part of [the reason why].”
Our Take: Like Bronson (who declined our interview request), supervisor Rex Scott voted against providing a donation to the Arizona Bowl. He said he understands why the bowl committee made the business decision to name Barstool Sports the game’s title sponsor (he met with executive director Kim Adair prior to the vote). But he said his motivations as a board member are different from theirs. While the committee is focused on relevance, revenue and exposure, “I had to think how the public I represent would feel about the county’s name and money being associated with a bowl that had Barstool Sports as the title sponsor given their history,” he said.
For the record, Pima County might still be involved in the bowl if Barstool Sports were simply serving as the game’s broadcaster. “It was the fact that they were the title sponsor that really elicited concerns from myself and my colleagues.” Scott said. There was a fear “a lot of people in the community would not feel like they were a part of the celebration [with the game being dubbed the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl],” he noted.
The deal was announced less than a month ago, so it is premature to project just how much more money the game will generate for charity this year. But Farhang says the level of corporate interest is greater than it has ever been. “People from different companies started contacting me saying they would like to be part of the Barstool Arizona Bowl, asking how they become sponsors,” he said.
Pima County is the only donor (or corporate sponsor) to have pulled out on the news of Barstool’s involvement, according to Farhang. It should be noted Pima County’s commitment to sponsor the game was made in 2020 prior to three current supervisors joining the board.
Farhang called the county’s $38,000 contribution “de minimis, compared to other funding sources.”
TD4Tucson does not need to replace the money from the county to put on the game (which costs seven figures to operate). “But we will because that allows us to give more money to charity,” Farhang said.
Christy, who has worked locally with PGA Tour events, voted in favor of honoring the county’s commitment to the game, in part because he understands the difficulties associated with securing and keeping a title sponsor. “I know it’s a huge effort and a competitive process,” he said.
He also has confidence in Arizona Bowl leadership. “I know the founders. I know the Board of Directors. I know the Committee, many of them very well,” he said. “I have full faith and trust in their judgment and support them fully.”
The Board has yet to decide what it is going to do with the money. Christy has suggested they use it to fill potholes around town because $38,000 is not enough to really make a meaningful difference for most charities.
But Farhang says he will “be fine” with the board’s decision to back out as long as the funding ultimately makes its way to a charity (or series of charities). “Our ultimate objective will have been achieved,” he said. “Because all of the net proceeds from this game go to non-profits.”