News and hearts: A Daily Trojan love story
USC alumni Ashlea Tate and Arash Markazi met briefly in the Daily Trojan newsroom as Sports staff writers. Twenty years later, they’re engaged.
After matching on a dating app during the coronavirus pandemic, Tate and Markazi went out on their first date — a fancy WeHo dinner at Cecconi’s. In talking, they realized their time at USC overlapped, and Markazi asked Tate whether she’d participated in extracurriculars at the University. Tate told him what she thought he knew all along: they’d crossed paths in the newsroom in the spring of 2001.
“My heart dropped because I was so nervous that she was just going to up and leave the table or be insulted, but she laughed,” Markazi said. “She thought I was going to make up for lost time, and I had no idea.”
After a year of dating, Markazi asked for Tate’s hand in marriage — she said “yes.” Their LinkedIn engagement post included photos of the only Daily Trojan print paper Markazi saved from his college days: incidentally, a story of his was on the front page, and one of Tate’s was on the back.
At the paper, Tate covered water polo, golf and, sometimes, feature stories; her favorite story, she said, was one she wrote about the newly-opened Krispy Kreme at Café 84. Markazi wrote about the men’s basketball team, which made it to the Elite Eight at the time. The years he attended USC happened to be incredibly significant for college sports — Markazi’s first day on campus, in fact, was former football coach Pete Carroll’s first day on the job.
Though they worked on the same staff, Tate and Markazi only crossed paths once, in passing. Tate remembers seeing Markazi for the first time as he walked into the newsroom — the same room in the Student Union where the paper is produced to this day.
“We were doing different beats, so that was my first time ever seeing him, and I thought, ‘Oh wow, he’s really attractive,’” Tate said. “We never really interacted because he was there for a meeting, and I was there with our sports editors, so we never really had any chance to meet.”
Markazi saved the one print copy of the paper he has today because one of his stories made the front page in the News section: He’d been called to cover a guest speech from then-chief executive of AOL Time Warner Gerald Levine on the “role of the Internet” because no news writers were available. Tate’s back-page story was on the women’s water polo team competing at the Long Beach State tournament.
After Tate and Markazi graduated from USC in 2002 and 2004, respectively, their careers and lives didn’t cross again until they met on Hinge. Markazi moved to New York for a time and worked for Sports Illustrated Magazine, ESPN and the Los Angeles Times before starting his own sports media outlet, The Sporting Tribune, which covers Southern California, Hawaii and Las Vegas.
Tate attended graduate school at Cal State Northridge and scored a public relations internship at Los Angeles International Airport around the same time. She’s been in the travel and tourism industry ever since, having worked at the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, Cirque du Soleil and Madame Tussauds. She currently serves as the brand marketing manager at the West Hollywood Travel + Tourism Board, and said her time at the Daily Trojan urged her to pursue writing and communications.
“I’m really grateful for my time at the Daily Trojan because, when I first started at USC, I went in as undecided because I wanted to be open to different majors and different industries,” Tate said. “[The paper] really sparked my interest in writing and that’s when I knew I wanted to do print journalism.”
Markazi said finding his “future person” at USC had been a dream of his — as is it for many others who envision experiencing the quintessential collegiate romance — but it hadn’t panned out quite as he’d expected.
“I was so married to my job and my career and where I wanted it to go,” Markazi said. “I’ve often felt like, ‘What if [Tate and I] went out or something [back then]?’ But I don’t think it would have been what it is. I wouldn’t have appreciated what I have now.”
Markazi enjoys maintaining his relationship with the University. Since graduating, he taught at USC as an adjunct professor for four years. His class, “Sports Commentary” ran several semesters ago as a practicum in field reporting on sports games.
Markazi proposed to Tate on a trip to Las Vegas to close on a condo they’d bought together. One of Tate’s closest friends, Nicole Steen, saw her and Markazi grow closer after first meeting, and said she was “so excited” about their engagement.
“I knew they were going to get engaged — I just didn’t know when,” said Steen, who was a featured majorette on the USC Marching Band and who currently works as a celebrity fitness trainer. “I just was wondering, you know, ‘When is this going to happen?’ You guys are wired together all the time. You travel the world together. And then, it happened.”
Tate and Steen met on Steen’s first day at USC: while Steen was trying to figure out how the phone system worked at Century Apartments, Tate approached her in the hallway and lent her a phone. They’ve been friends ever since.
Steen met Markazi on a visit to Tate’s place during the height of the pandemic and has since gone on double dates with the couple and her boyfriend.
“[Tate and Markazi] are extremely close. I’ve just seen them become one; they’re a team,” Steen said. “It’s great to see that growth since two years ago.”
The two complement one another, Steen said: Tate is a “motivational person” and helps take a load off Markazi to make things easier for him. Markazi, Steen said, often gives Tate great advice and the two of them talk through everything together.
Jacob Ullman, a USC alumnus and a good friend of Markazi’s, knew Markazi had been planning his proposal to Tate for a while.
“At a certain point, it was figuring out exactly the right way to do it as he knew that [Tate] was the girl for him and he wanted to spend time with her,” Ullman said.
Both involved in covering the “glory days” of Pete Carroll at USC, Ullman and Markazi met at football practices and games and developed a friendship. Ullman, who now serves as senior vice president of production and talent development at FOX Sports, was involved in the games as a fan, an alum and a member of the sports media.
Ullman met Tate on a weekend spent in Orange County and said they instantly “hit it off.”
“She’s just a wonderful, smart, sincere person and was just such a great addition to [Markazi’s] world,” Ullman said. “Instantly, we all liked her.”
When Ullman and Markazi’s other friends heard the story of how he and Tate worked together at the Daily Trojan, Ullman said they gave him a “needlessly hard time” about not remembering her from their college days.
“[We’d say] ‘There was this wonderful girl and you thought you were too cool for school and don’t even remember her,’” Ullman said with a laugh.
Tate and Markazi have yet to set a wedding date, but Ullman and Steen already know they want to be involved. Steen said she wants to help Steen with her dress and “whatever [else] she needs,” and Ullman, an ordained minister, said he hopes to be somehow involved in the ceremony.
The underlying positivity of Tate and Markazi’s relationship, Ullman said, is the way it spotlights the possibility of romance in the most unexpected of places and times.
“How amazing is it that the Daily Trojan could bring people together and have a happy ending, right?” Ullman said. “What a fairy tale.”
To college students looking to find love, both Markazi and Tate advise patience and openness above all else.
“I’m probably the worst person to give advice to because I never found love in college, and I don’t think anyone who’s in college wants to hear, ‘Listen, don’t worry, in 20 years, during a global pandemic, you’ll find your true love,’” Markazi said. “It’s amazing how life really works.”