Ex-Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson III invests in American Cornhole League

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John Thompson III, Head of Athlete Development and Commitment to Monumental Basketball, poses for a portrait at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC on July 22, 2019.

Ned Dishman | National Basketball Federation | Getty Images

Former Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson III now owns a sports company in Cornhole.

James Simmons III, CEO of Thompson and Asland Capital Partners, invested in the American Cornhole League. The transaction is ACL’s first round of funding, but no specific terms have been specified.

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

“You giggle when you think about it,” Thompson said of the Cornhole investment. “But if you dive in and do your research, cornhole is one of the fastest growing sports in the world.”

ACL was introduced in South Carolina in 2016. The company has successfully used the popular game that requires participants to throw bags of corn kernels at a platform to earn points in a TV sport similar to bowling.

ACL signed media deals with NBCUniversal and Disney’s own ESPN, and signed a multi-year deal with ViacomCBS in December. According to ESPN, viewership of ACL content has increased 3% compared to 2020. The most-watched ACL broadcast in 2021 was the Pro Invitational with an average of 468,000 viewers.

American Cornhole League

Source: American Cornhole League

ACL was featured on a 2018 CNBC profile that found players could earn up to $ 25,000 in prize money. ACL is in its fifth season and is slated to hold a $ 250,000 prize pool competition on Saturday. In the 2018 article, ACL founder Stacey Moore targeted a future prize pool of $ 1 million.

Thompson commended Moore for “growing the sport and raising awareness,” adding that ACL had “potential growth paths”.

The league also has sponsorship with companies including the sports betting company DraftKings.

“Is it a risk? Absolutely, ”said Thompson. “But all investments are a risk. I have a strong feeling for the management team we have put together and the existing team.”

Thompson referred to himself as a “calculated investor” when talking about his investment strategy. He advised New York-based investment firm Inner Circle Sports on the ACL deal and also sees the company’s e-commerce offerings as an opportunity. ACL generates income from cornhole merchandise, products and clothing.

In a statement accompanying the announcement of the deal, Moore said the new capital and business relationships would “take our growth to the next level as we evolve as a professional sport and organization”.

A return to the sidelines?

Thompson coached the Hoyas men’s basketball program from 2004 to 2017 and set a career record of 346-193 as head coach, including four years at Princeton University. He is currently an executive at Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Washington Wizards franchise for the National Basketball Association.

When asked if he would like to return to coaching, he did not rule out the possibility, but added that he enjoyed the front office role.

“The business aspect of running an organization is very similar, but very different, to running and managing a team,” Thompson said, later considering the naming, image, and likeness guidelines that enable college athletes to make money.

Rules banning college athletes from benefiting from their name, image and likeness were overturned in July following a ruling by the US Supreme Court. Football players from top programs have already approved deals worth over $ 1 million. Thompson said the NCAA’s adoption of NIL policies was “the right thing” but warned of the “positive and negative effects.”

“The collegial sport changed a lot when that was over,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s a bad thing; it’s just another world now. That coupled with the transfer rule – college coaching is a completely different job. “

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.