OpinionAugust 30, 2009


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Thinking of starting your own league? Read this first.

By Eli Ricke

When perusing the Cafe forums, you will run across many posts dealing with issues regarding commissioners. The subjects can range from how to set up a scoring system to complaints about cheating within a league. With this in mind I thought it might be a good idea to go over some basic ground rules for commissioners. Here are 10 unwritten rules that every fantasy football commissioner should know. They are listed in no particular order.

1. Set up your scoring system in a fair manner.

You need to be good at basic math. If math was never your favorite subject in school, don’t feel bad, you’re like most people. It is important however to have a fair scoring system in place. No scoring system is perfect. You will always have detractors that think that the RB statistical categories should be worth more points and others that think they should be worth less. There’s really no way around that. People have their preferences and that’s just the way it is, but it should at least be fair.

You may actually want to have a system set up where RBs are kings, and as long as the league goes along with that then have at it. But, if you set up a scoring system that favors one position you need to make sure that the league owners are aware of it. You don’t need to spell it out specifically, just make sure that you mention to everyone that they need to check the settings.

If you are uncomfortable with using your own settings then use the default settings from the host site instead.

2. Lay out the ground rules beforehand.

When you first invite participants into your league, you need to spell out ground rules. If you won’t tolerate profanity or crude language on the message boards, you need to say so. Punishing an owner by locking his team for violating a rule that he didn’t know was in place is bad form. If they break a rule that you haven’t told them about, the right thing to do is to make the rule known and let everyone know that from that moment on it will not be tolerated. If an owner still needs to change something to comply to your rule (i.e. his team name or logo), then give him a time limit before you divvy out any penalties.

3. Be available.

Commissioners should always have their e-mail available to the league. Most FF sites require this, but in case they don’t it is still a good idea to do so. People will have questions and comments all the time, especially prior to the draft, and they’ll want answers.

As an example, I had signed up for a public league a few weeks ago and then posted some questions about scoring settings and draft time on the message board. I also sent an e-mail to the commissioner. After two weeks, I received no response so I dropped out of the league. It may be my own personal preference but I don’t like playing in leagues where the commissioner is unresponsive. In addition to having your e-mail available you should also check the site regularly to see if there are any questions on the message board. At minimum this should be done three times a week. If people see that you are involved and willing to answer questions, there is a good chance that they will trust you more.

4. Changing settings after the season starts.

It turns out you didn’t do your math and missed a setting that has upset the scoring system. You can correct the setting or leave it as is, but which is the correct thing to do?

Let’s say that you’re in an IDP league and you accidentally set tackles at four points each, which makes defensive players the #1 commodity in the entire draft. Out of 14 teams, only three owners realize this and start drafting defense very early. A LB has a monster game in the Week 1 opener and scores over 70 points by himself, whereas the top RBs, QBs and WRs that week only score in the 20s. You then decide that this is wrong and change the scoring so that tackles are only one point which makes everyone happy — except for the three guys that spent their top picks on defensive players.

It may have been a lopsided scoring system, which violates Rule 1, but if some owners have drafted according to the scoring setup then the best course of action in this particular situation might be to leave things as is. If you want to change a setting you should get the input of the other owners first, but remember, the majority isn’t always right. If you abide by Rule 1, this shouldn’t be a problem.

5. League votes or commissioner review?

Trades can be a touchy subject. Most leagues allow the commissioner to set up trade reviews either by the commissioner or a league vote. Both have their pros and cons.

Most people who join in a public league prefer the league vote setting. The reason for this is fairly simple: they don’t trust you. And why should they? They don’t know you and for all they know you have two or three teams signed up using different e-mail accounts that can basically be your own little farm system. Also, it is not usually considered fair that commissioners get to approve their own trade proposals. In the case of public leagues, it is a better idea to set up trade approval by a league vote. People will feel much more comfortable with this.

In leagues that you form with your own personal friends I prefer the commissioner approval setting. This can be helpful in that trades can get approved in a much quicker fashion since there is no two-day time limit. Just remember one thing though. If you want to keep those friends, you had better be fair.
I will not sign up for a new league in which I don’t know the commissioner if he has trades set as commissioner approved. Most commissioners are honest people, and by most I mean at least 50%, but they’re not all honest and I don’t want to risk throwing a whole season in the toilet because of another person’s dishonesty.

6. Playoff elimination rule.

In leagues in which I am the commish I always have a rule for teams that have been eliminated from the playoffs. You are simply not allowed to dump any players on the waiver wire just because you are frustrated and want to give up. I will not tolerate it.

If an eliminated team still has games to play in the regular season I leave them free to make moves. Once that last game is over however, their teams are locked. Teams that are eliminated during the playoffs are also locked as soon as the game is official. Anyone who tries to dump players from their roster at any point in the season will have those players put back on their teams and their rosters locked.

This is always one of the first announcements on the message boards for leagues that I commish and I feel it is a good one to have. This promotes fair play across the board and owners who see you do this will want to come back the following year.

7. Are they cheating?

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if some owners are cheating in your league. One of the most common situations that comes up is a lopsided trade. Is it collusion or did one owner just get swindled?

I do not feel obligated to protect anyone from their own stupidity. If they really want to trade Adrian Peterson for Jake Delhomme, that’s their prerogative. On the other hand, what if the two owners are guilty of collusion?

For those of you who don’t know, the way collusion works is like this: I trade you star player “A” for a player of lesser value so that you can beat team “X” this week. I need team “X” to lose and you need to win so we can both have a better shot to make the playoffs. The following week we trade the players back. Another example is one team that has been eliminated from the playoffs and is giving their star players to a team that is in or at least has a shot.

The first situation is easier to handle than one might think. First of all, you let the initial trade go through but send a PM to both owners that collusion will not be tolerated (don’t put it on the message board for everyone to see). If they attempt to trade the players back then you lay down the law. The rosters are reset retroactively to what they were prior to the initial trade and the teams are locked. You may have two owners who are upset but you will have gained the trust of the other owners in the league as a fair commissioner.

The second situation is actually preventable. Set your trade deadline early enough that by the time it comes along everyone should still have a decent chance of being in the playoff run. Follow this up with the application of the playoff elimination rule above and you shouldn’t see this happen very often if at all. If it does happen, reset their rosters and lock the teams.

8. Try to have an even playing field.

There are many people who are beginners at fantasy football that just get it. From the very start they seem to know what they’re doing. There are many others, on the other hand, that need a little time to figure things out.

If you are an experienced player you should seek out other experienced players. It is also a good idea to have players prove to you that they will not quit. Sites like Yahoo! that have player profiles are nice in this regard as you can look up how many leagues a player has participated in and how well they have generally done. A beginner who finds himself in a league with experts may feel overwhelmed and give up halfway through the season. Not only is this no fun for that person but it is no fun for the other owners as well. Suddenly they find themselves essentially with a bye week because their opponent isn’t even trying any more.

Don’t be afraid to turn down players who do not seem experienced. E-mail them and ask them questions if you’re not sure. It may be that they had to start a new user account and all of their old records are gone. You can’t control this all the time but try to do what you can to get active owners in your league that all have a similar amount of experience.

If you are a beginner yourself then it may be best to do the opposite. Seek out other beginners and learn with them.

9. Show them the money.

Don’t start a money league unless you can handle money. It sounds simple enough but there’s no better way to make enemies than to take someone’s money for a fantasy football league and then not pay it out after the season is over. If you’re dealing with cash, keep it locked up in a safe place. It is not advisable to put the money in your own bank account for safe keeping. Sure, the money will be safe there but you may also be tempted to put that extra $100 payment on your mortgage. If you want to keep the cash at a bank do what I do. Put it in a sealed envelope and place it in your safety deposit box. If you don’t have one, find a place where you can keep the money under lock and key.

One of the best ways of handling money for a league is by using an online system such as Paypal. The cash can be tracked easier this way and when it comes time to pay out you don’t even need to contact any of the winners. You should already have the information from them to deposit the winnings into their online accounts.

10. Don’t be a Richard Cranium.

No offense to people named Richard, especially ones with the last name Cranium, but if there’s going to be a jerk or two in the league it’s a lot more fun if the commissioner isn’t one of them.

Perhaps it is an inferiority complex. I don’t know. Some people simply can’t handle being in a position of authority no matter how small or insignificant that position is. Commissioners that lock teams for the slightest infraction really have no business being a commissioner. You are not a despotic dictator who can do as you please. A commissioner is more like a referee. You lay out the ground rules and then enforce those rules. You may even have to settle a dispute or two, but that’s it. Just because you have the power doesn’t mean you need to flaunt it. If there is a serious infraction taking place then lay down the law. Otherwise, let the games be played.

 
Eli Ricke knows absolutely nothing about Fantasy Football that everyone else doesn’t already know. All of his success in Fantasy Football can be attributed entirely to dumb luck. He has been playing Fantasy Football since 1999 and is a habitual liar. You will occasionally run across him in the café forums under the name 204BC, a name that has no particular meaning whatsoever. He just made it up, the same thing he does with most of the advice he gives.
 
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