Creator/founder Matthew Gray thought of the idea for the King of Cornhole in 2002 after seeing people play it at a social gathering. It immediately reminded him of a classic television show he watched as a kid called the “King of TV Bowling” where players competed every week to dethrone the reigning champion.
Gray enlisted the help of his business partner, Doug Hopkins, Phill Daniel and Chad Dillenfeld to create the “King of Cornhole,” a weekly series featuring players competing in a tournament to face the reigning King of Cornhole. It was the first cornhole show in television history.
Gray and Hopkins became partners with American Cornhole (aka American Cornhole Organization). They worked with ACO president Frank Geers to grow the sport of cornhole. Prior to them joining the company, ACO had one national tournament called the U.S. Nationals, a Skills Challenge Ranking and were launching a monthly series of events called Masters Series.
Gray and Hopkins introduced the concepts of points earning tournaments, CornyForty and World Rankings into a cornhole season leading to the ACO U.S. Nationals. The King of Cornhole became the featured main event of the ACO U.S. Nationals. Later, more of their ideas would influence ACO and the sport of cornhole.
First, terminology changed. Masters Series was changed to Regionals. Signature Series was changed to Majors. Skills Challenge Ranking was changed to a Skill Challenge Rating. Second, a Certified Officials program was created for more outreach. Third, Gray and Hopkins introduced the Ranked Players Invitational (aka RPI) into ACO to give more players an opportunity at the 64-seeded King of Cornhole tournament.
Historically, the ACO U.S. Nationals was held in January. At the suggestion of ESPN, the decision was made to move the season ending championship event to July.
Players referred to the ACO U.S. Nationals as the King of Cornhole with each passing season. In 2013, the ACO U.S. Nationals was changed to ACO World Championships of Cornhole, with the King of Cornhole as the main event. That summer the King of Cornhole VIII was featured on ESPN’s Kenny Mayne’s Wider World of Sports.
Gray and Hopkins left American Cornhole in the fall of 2014. What they left behind is the foundation of the ACO you see today.
After they left the company, ACO expanded the King of Cornhole field from 64 players to 128 players and launched ACO State Championships. King of Cornhole tournament was renamed the World Singles tournament, with the winner named the King or Queen of Cornhole. Women's tournament winner is no longer referred to as the Queen of Cornhole.