Cornhole a Professional Sport?

Did you happen to catch cornhole on ESPN? We’re sure there were a lot of people surprised to see that! Cornhole has progressed from a game barely known outside of the Midwest, to a game found at tailgates, to an activity at most backyard BBQs, to local tournaments, to coverage of a professional tournament on ESPN. So how did it happen? How did a game go from being barely known by most Americans to being a professional sport broadcasted on ESPN?

Quick Growth in Popularity

It is believed that cornhole’s rise to becoming a professional sports is due to the simplicity of the game. The list of equipment required is simple – two boards and 8 bags. The setup is simple: extend the legs, set the boards 27 feet apart, and start throwing! The equipment can also work on almost any surface, unlike other outdoor games like horseshoe. None of the equipment is prone to rolling long distances such as bocce or washers. These features of the game made it easy for people to travel with the equipment and play wherever they were. As a result, the popularity of cornhole exploded at both tailgates and backyard gatherings.

Competitive Tournaments Begin

The next step for any game like cornhole to become a professional sport is that it needed to be competitive. To be more competitive, you need to have more competitions. Everything from bars to local clubs were holding cornhole tournaments for players to compete in. This resulted in a lot of people wanting to get better and track their performance. This is where one of the biggest steps was taken to turn cornhole into a sport.

Sanctioning Tournaments Through The ACL

One of the biggest steps cornhole took towards being considered a sport was to sanction the tournaments that were taking place across the country. For example, bowling leagues are sanctioned by an organization called the USBC (United States Bowling Congress). This organization keeps track of things like scores, tournament results, and other statistics to consistently track individual players and their scores. Cornhole needed something similar which is why the ACL (American Cornhole League) was created.

The ACL was founded by Stacey Moore, who noticed that there was a lot more enthusiasm around that backyard game than others. He knew that there was a great potential for it to be a sport and this is why he created the ACL. The organization gave the game the structure it needed to make a consistent set of rules and help players across the country track their statistics. These statistics help to find the best cornhole players in the country to be in the major tournaments, such as the one you might have seen on ESPN.

First Tournament on ESPN

While many long-time players already considered cornhole to be a sport, the first broadcast on ESPN in 2015 was the unofficial declaration for the rest of the country. Viewers were able to get a professional look at what was originally just a backyard game. The analysis on things like the intricate details of the bag and reading the “slide” on the boards let viewers know that this is much more than just a game of throwing bags into holes in a piece of wood…this is a legitimate sport!

Cornhole Level - Mark Richards - ACL Pro - Bust You Up Cornhole Level
ACL Cornhole Pro Jamie Graham and the Cornhole Level for cornhole accessories under $20
Beau Horky - ACL Pro - Holding CornStars Sponsorhip Shirt - Cornhole Level Accessory
Cornhole Level Accessory Tool with slogan - Time to LEVEL the Playing Field!