Cornhole League Shooting for Olympics as John Thompson III Leads VC Round

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The ubiquitous game at college tailgates and craft brewery yards is thinking big.

The American Cornhole League has taken its first outside investments, as basketball coach John Thompson III and real estate investor James Simmons III have invested in the fast-growing league.

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“I’m really excited about the doors this is going to open for us,” ACL commissioner and founder Stacey Moore said on a phone call. “We’re looking forward to adding on partners that they can bring to the table and then business expansion in general. We like to say that we’re the only sport that can be played at another professional or college sporting event. The portability of our game is unique. And, obviously, we want to make cornhole an Olympic sport.”

The American Cornhole League is the self-styled organizing league for the bean bag toss game. Founded by Moore in 2015, the ACL is standardizing the rules and equipment for the game and operates contests from amateur on up. The league counts 120,000 players and has organized more than 30,000 tournaments, including at the top-level ACL Pro Division, where a maximum 256 players compete for winnings drawn from a $1 million prize pool. The ACL Pro Shootout Series finishes its season Saturday, in a contest to be carried nationally on CBS. The league also has broadcast deals with ESPN and, through national governing body USA Cornhole, NBC Sports.

“The tagline of the league is very apropos: Anyone can play, anyone can win,” Simmons said in a phone call. “There is an equal opportunity to win for an 11-year-old as there is a for a 70-year-old, and the individuals who are at the top of their game are very highly skilled. But that skill generally is not equated to that which one is born with, like height or speed.”

Simmons is the founding partner of Asland Ventures, a VC firm with investments in G2 Esports and Courtside VC, as well as other non-sports holdings. Thompson is best known as the former Georgetown University men’s basketball coach and is currently vice president for player development and engagement at Monumental Basketball. The egalitarian nature of the game—which has pros as young as 11—and the fast growth of the ACL attracted Simmons and Thompson to invest in the league, Simmons added.

“As the public becomes aware—and some of the distribution relationships are relatively new—once they become more deeply entrenched, I think you’ll see an amount of organic growth and an amount of brand and name recognition,” Simmons said.

The investment will be used to expand the ACL’s efforts at marketing, content development and international expansion. In particular the ACL is looking to popularize the game outside the U.S., and sees Canada, Europe and Australia and New Zealand as prime markets for expansion.

“One of the challenges is to get the high-quality equipment that we use and manufacture here in the United States out to other parts of the world, so they know what it means to play with professional equipment,” added Moore. “Then it’s just a matter of sending our pros to these areas to teach adults and kids.”

The amount of the investment by the duo isn’t publicly disclosed. Inner Circle Sports were the financial advisers for the investors in the deal.