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Cornhole's Meteoric Rise Has Leaders Thinking the Olympic Podium's the Limit

29 May, 2019

By: Michael Popke

Cornhole, the ultimate tailgate pastime (hey, you can play with a beer in one hand), has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity that has governing bodies tossing about the possiblity of the Olympics.

American Cornhole League Commissioner Stacey Moore has that goal, and believes there's no stopping the sport's trajectory.

“[The Olympics are] a pretty aggressive goal, but I’ve seen the reaction people have had to it, especially since we landed our deal with the ESPN,” Moore recently told SportTechie.com. “As we’ve been able to improve the broadcast and analytics in our sport, I have a lot of confidence that we’ll be able to make this an Olympic sport.”

Moore is referring to a relationship with the cable sports network that dates back to 2016, when the first ACL event was a digital broadcast on ESPN3. The sport moved to ESPN2 in 2017, according to Forbes.com, and then the league inked a three-year deal with ESPN in July 2017. Last July 4, 500,000 viewers tuned into the ACL Pro Invitational.

“You can’t be a sport without scores and states, so we went on a mission to create cornhole as a sport,” Moore told Forbes.com, adding that he and his partners invested more than $1 million in the back-end technology to be able to manage cornhole events and tournaments for all ages and skill levels.

SportTechie.com elaborated on the tech behind the sport:

Moore is currently focused on building the technology infrastructure that will take the ACL into the future. The league already has its own web-based application to enable people to schedule and track events, score competitions, and evaluate basic statistics and rankings. To be considered official, all events must be scheduled through that platform. The ACL had iOS and Android apps initially, but scrapped both in exchange for the web app. Moore said that decision had a lot to do with the cost and effort that come with maintaining apps in the App Store and on Google Play.

Streaming capabilities and more recently, original content, are another pillar of the ACL’s growth. The league’s newest show, The Film Room, offers a technical breakdown of cornhole action. It is produced and hosted by ACL media director Trey Ryder, who oversees the ACL Digital Network and the ACL’s social media accounts. Another show, ACL Throw Down, launched last year as a SportsCenter-like overview of matches, including player interviews.

Believe it or not, the ACL is one of three groups that claim to govern cornhole in the United States; the other two are the American Cornhole Organization and the American Cornhole Association. More than 35,000 athletes have played in one of the ACL’s 105,000 events since the league’s inception, SportTechie reports, and the number of ACL-hosted events is expected to at least double (if not triple) by the end of this year, according to Moore.

Meanwhile, the first ACO Major in the Pacific Northwest Conference was held in February at the Everett Soccer Arena, and the organization continues to expand the sport — albeit on a smaller level than the ACL.

When asked what’s driving cornhole’s popularity, Trent Henkaline, ACA’s owner and CEO told Sports Destination Managementi n a November 2017 interview that the social aspect is key.

“You meet a lot of people playing it. Second, there’s a very wide age group that can play it – from kids all the way up to senior citizens,” he said. “It’s also really easy to learn; you can literally explain the rules in five or 10 minutes and anyone can start playing.”

Henkaline added that he prefers indoor venues for competitive tournaments, where rain and wind won’t interfere with play. “A hotel ballroom could easily work,” he said. “For around 30 to 40 teams, you would need to set up five courts.”

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