Bag-Gate: Professional Cornhole Rocked By Scandal

There is a cheating epidemic going on right now. First, the chess world was rocked by an anal beads cheating scandal, then fishing suffered a black eye, and now the sanctity of cornhole has been tarnished by cheating.

Cornhole was once reserved for family picnics and the tailgate lot but has grown in popularity. It’s now so popular that ESPN even uses it to flesh out their schedule when there’s absolutely nothing else to televise.

As such, the prizes, sponsorships, and attention have grown. So too have the lengths players — no, athletes — will go for glory.

That thirst for success brought about one of the darkest moments in cornhole history.

You already know the stories of Watergate and Deflategate; now meet Bag-Gate.

Cornholer Jamie Graham tosses a bag in a match against Mark Richards. Richards was implicated in the Bag-Gate scandal that has rocked the cornhole community to its core.
Cornholer Jamie Graham tosses a bag in a match against Mark Richards. Richards was implicated in the Bag-Gate scandal that has rocked the cornhole community to its core. (Photo by Logan Cyrus for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Bag-Gate Strikes The Cornhole World

It happened this past August at the 2022 American Cornhole League World Championships in Rock Hill, South Carolina. While most fans showed up to the Rock Hill Sports and Events Center hoping to get a glimpse of their favorite cornholers — like points-per-round (PPR) leaders Matt Guy and Josh Holland — they also witnessed a controversy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the No. 1 ranked doubles team of Mark Richards and Philip Lopez came under fire after another player thought something was off about their bags.

“I thought the bags were too thin,” opponent Devon Harbaugh said. He then filed the complaint that set the world of cornhole ablaze like a piping hot Johnsonville sausage (a major sponsor of the ACL).

Turns out Harbaugh’s sixth sense for bag thickness was right on the money. Those beanbags didn’t measure up to the regulation thickness. However, in a strange twist, Harbaugh’s bags were ALSO deemed to be too thin!

In this instance, it could be argued that there’s no problem. Everyone’s using thin bags — cornhole’s version of a corked bat — so what’s the problem?

However, the ACL doesn’t see it that way. It appears that the thin bags may be part of a deeper problem plaguing the cornhole world. As such, Bag-Gate has led to the league placing bags under scrutiny to weed out those that aren’t up to snuff.

It’s a watershed moment in the world of cornhole and a pivotal one in shaping the league’s — and the sport’s — image.

A table of beanbags for sale at the  American Cornhole League World Championships.
A table of beanbags for sale at the American Cornhole League World Championships. Apparently, cornholers can use their own beanbags. Sort of like bowling balls, only much lighter. (Photo by Logan Cyrus for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Let’s Fix Cornhole’s Image

Cornhole has seemingly lost its way. To repair its image, the game — ahem, sport — must return to its roots.

No one shows up to a graduation party or a tailgate with their own bags. You show up, realize there’s a cornhole setup, then challenge your buddy to a game which you then play while balancing a plate with a burger and some pasta salad and holding a beer.

This is why if I was the commissioner of the ACL, I would make an executive decision that all players must use communal bags. It solves the cheating problem and it also takes us back to the bygone days of backyard cornholing.

While we’re fixing cornhole, I think beers need to become part of the equipment. Beer plays a critical role in amateur cornhole. It loosens players mentally, but when held in the non-throwing hand it also serves as a counterweight. We’re talking physics now, people: sports science.

The league could even have an official beer partner who supplies the suds to players and fans alike.

If the league doesn’t want to promote alcohol, then maybe competitors can hold cylindrical weights that happen to weigh 12 oz. And if there’s liquid in the weights, hey it could be water.

The last thing I’d do is change the name of the sport because… well, I think you know why…

We’ll see if the sport can recover its image and perhaps, more importantly, the trust of its fans.

Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle

Written by Matt Reigle

Matt is a University of Central Florida graduate and a long-suffering Philadelphia Flyers fan living in Orlando, Florida. He can usually be heard playing guitar, shoe-horning obscure quotes from The Simpsons into conversations, or giving dissertations to captive audiences on why Iron Maiden is the greatest band of all time.

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