Former Georgetown coach John Thompson III invests in American Cornhole League

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John Thompson III, head of the athlete development and engagement department for Monumental Basketball, poses for a portrait on July 22, 2019 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC.

Ned Dishman | National Basketball Association | Getty Images

Former Georgetown University men’s basketball coach John Thompson III is now an owner of a cornhole sports company.

Thompson III and Asland Capital Partners CEO James Simmons III invested in the American Cornhole League. The transaction is ACL’s first funding round, but specific terms were not provided.

In an interview with CNBC on Monday, Thompson III, the son of legendary Georgetown University coach John Thompson, explained the investment in ACL, adding the league is positioned to increase revenue over this decade due to its growing popularity.

“You kind of chuckle when you think about it,” Thompson III said of investing in cornhole. “But as you dive in and do the research, cornhole is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world.”

ACL launched in 2016 in South Carolina. The company has successfully leveraged the popular game — which requires participants to toss bags of corn kernels onto a platform for points — into a TV sport similar to bowling.

ACL lured media agreements NBCUniversal, Disney-owned ESPN and signed a multi-year deal with ViacomCBS last December. ESPN said viewership of ACL content is up 3% year-over-year compared to 2020. ACL’s most-viewed airing in 2021 was the Pro Invitational, which averaged 468,000 average viewers.

American Cornhole League

Source: American Cornhole League

ACL was featured in a 2018 CNBC profile, which noted players could earn up to $25,000 in prize money. ACL is in its fifth season and scheduled to hold a $250,000 prize pool competition on Saturday. In the 2018 article, ACL founder Stacey Moore targeted a $1 million prize pool in the future. Thompson III praised Moore for “growing the sport and increasing awareness,” adding ACL has “potential avenues of growth.”

The league also has sponsorships with companies, including sports betting company DraftKings.

“Is it a risk? Absolutely,” said Thompson III. “But all investments are a risk. I feel strongly about the management team that’s we’re putting together and the team already in place.”

A return to the sidelines?

Thompson III labeled himself a “calculated investor” when discussing his investment strategy. He used New York-based investment firm Inner Circle Sports to advise with the ACL agreement and sees the company’s e-commerce offerings as an opportunity, too.

ACL makes revenue from cornhole merchandise, products and apparel. In a statement announcing the transaction, Moore said the new capital and business relationships would “help take our growth to the next level as we continue to evolve as a professional sport and organization.”

Thompson III coached the Hoyas men’s basketball program before departing in 2017, compiling a career 346-193 record, including four years at Princeton University. Thompson III is currently an executive at Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which owns the National Basketball Association’s Washington Wizards franchise.

Asked if he would like to return to coaching, Thompson III didn’t rule out the possibility but added he’s enjoying the front office role.

“The business aspect of running an organization is very similar to running and managing a team, yet very different,” Thompson III said, later factoring in name, image, and likeness, which allows college athletes to earn money.

Rules that barred athletes from profiting were lifted last July, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Already football players from top programs have agreed to deals over $1 million. Thompson III said the NCAA adopting NIL “was the right thing” but warned of the “positive and negative repercussions.”   

Said Thompson III: “Intercollegiate sports changed significantly when that passed. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing; it’s just a different world now. That coupled with the transfer rule, college coaching is a much different job.”

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.

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