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 reminded him of a classic television show he watched as a kid called the “King of TV Bowling,” where players competed weekly to dethrone the reigning champion.
In 2006, Gray enlisted the help of his business partner, Doug Hopkins, and his friends 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.
In 2007, Gray and Hopkins became partners with American Cornhole (American Cornhole Organization). They worked with ACO owner/president Frank Geers to grow the sport of cornhole. Before joining the company, ACO had one national tournament called the U.S. Nationals, a Skills Challenge Ranking, and had started planning monthly events called the 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 main event of the ACO U.S. Nationals.
Terminology changed over the years. Masters Series changed to Regionals. Signature Series changed to Majors. Skills Challenge Ranking changed to a Skill Challenge Rating.
The ACO shifted directions regarding the engagement of tournament directors, which resulted in the Certified Officials program. In addition, Gray and Hopkins introduced the Ranked Players Invitational (RPI) to give vested ACO players more opportunities in the 64-seeded King of Cornhole tournament versus a non-ACO cornhole player.
Strangely, ACO had its World Championship in the middle of the season, and its most significant season-ending event, the U.S. Nationals, in January. Winning the National Championship was labeled a higher achievement than the World Championship. Also, players considered winning the King of Cornhole at the U.S. Nationals as the World Championship. Gray and Hopkins thought the messaging could have been clearer.
Therefore, Gray and Hopkins encouraged the ACO to change the name of the U.S. Nationals and move its season-ending event to July when televised sports activities were at their lowest, similar to Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Championship.
In 2013, at the suggestion of ESPN, ACO moved the season-ending championship event to July. ACO changed U.S. Nationals to the 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. However, their contributions were integral in the foundation for professional cornhole.