Now that you’ve got your league set up you’ll be on
point to manage the league throughout the season. It’s important
that you have a good understanding of how you intend for the league
to run, because relying on the rules alone won’t be enough.
There are always goings to be situations you didn’t account
for or owners who look for loopholes to exploit. It’s going
to be necessary to make decisions on the fly and to do them in a
consistent fashion that supports the rules you’ve developed.
Your first test as a commissioner will come in the organization
of the draft. Next you’ll be responsible for transactions
that take place throughout each week. Finally, you’ll need
to understand that your position comes with some inherent advantages
and you’ll need some checks and balances to insure owners
that you run this league for the benefit of all, not for the benefit
This is the highlight of the fantasy football season. Owners live
for the excitement and entertainment of the draft. It’s
your job to ensure this event goes off without a hitch. Issues
at the draft can snowball into bigger problems on into the season.
The first thing you need to do is set the date and location of
the event. The challenge of this task increases with the number
of team owners you are dealing with. Its important to understand
you can’t please everyone and its highly unlikely you’ll
find a date and time that’s convenient for all. I used to
poll my owners each year and tried to set a date based on their
input. This never really worked out and resulted in me changing
the date and time which really didn’t help the situation.
Now, I pick a date convenient for me and that’s what we
go with. You’ll find that most owners will find a way to
make the draft if you’ll just give them a date. I also offer
alternatives to attending the draft. We have about 75% of our
owners draft in person, the others participate via Internet chat
if they aren’t local or can’t make the draft. Finally,
I offer owners the chance to submit a list if they simply cant
make the draft at all.
Once you set the time and date, be sure to remind your owners,
as the date gets closer. Having an owner miss the draft throws
of the dynamic of the event. As a matter of fact, you should have
a plan in place in case an owner doesn’t show. Our plan
is that if any owner is not present for the draft his team is
selected by a pre-season player-rating list. This list is unlikely
to draft a great team, but it’s usually good enough to field
a decent team and not skew the draft and the league by having
one team full of scrub players.
Another task you’ll need to undertake is setting your draft
order. Our league bases draft order on last year’s performance,
like the NFL. However many leagues simply have a random draft
orders. This can be done many ways from drawing out of a deck
of cards to picking numbers and comparing them to a pick-three
lottery number, etc. I prefer to publish the draft order prior
to the draft because it gives owners time to strategize their
picks and even make trades if you allow that. Some leagues don’t
select a draft order until just prior to the draft and while there
is nothing wrong with that, it does take away the ability to forecast
what players you may be able to draft in the earlier rounds.
During the draft you’ll need to have a system in place
to track the picks. I’ve found the best way to do this is
with a board and player stickers (color coded by position). This
has several advantages. It helps all the owners keep track of
what players have been picked. Next, it prevents you from accidentally
allowing two teams to select the same player (yes I’ve had
this happen). Finally, it adds to the owner’s ability to
strategize their picks because they can see the picks of other
teams and can guess at their needs in future rounds. Ideally its
great if you can get a non-drafting volunteer to manage the board
because you’ve got enough to do in managing the draft and
selecting your own team without having to sort through stickers
That’s basically it for setting up and managing the draft.
There are a couple of other rules you can implement to speed up
the draft process. Setting a time limit similar to the NFL system
gives each owner the same amount of time for a pick. We use a
two-minute limit. As the commissioner, I’ll just monitor
this with my watch and notify teams when they have 1 minute, 30
seconds, and 15 seconds. When I call time, if they don’t
give a pick, the next team in order may select a player at any
time. This helps prevent your draft from dragging out forever.
Another rule we’ve put in is the “Darnay Scott Rule”.
The rule derived its name because during one draft an owner selected
former Bengal’s WR, Darnay Scott, who happed to be out for
the season with a broken leg. He made the mistake of asking the
room if Scott was healthy. Someone told him yes and he picked
him. As a result, we put in a rule stating that if you have to
ask a player’s status during the draft you deserve whatever
answers you get. The idea of the draft is for owners to prepare
and know their player information inside and out.
Your next challenge will be to handle the weekly transactions.
There is really no secret to this. The key is to have clearly
defined rules and time deadlines to handle free agent claims and
trades. Deadlines should never be altered or bent. It’s
a slippery slope and if you do it once, owners in your league
will see this as a precedent and use it against you if they ever
miss deadlines. Many web-based league managers will handle transactions
automatically so there is no question about how they are processed.
However more complicated claim processes will likely require you
to process them (i.e. bid systems). Be sure you are handling these
transactions in a timely manner as your owners will be making
roster decisions based on the outcome of your transaction processing.
Though trades are technically a transaction, they probably deserve
a graduate study thesis to fully understand their impact on your
league. Trading can dissolve a league if it’s not handled
properly. Even when handled properly it can still be an explosive
issue. There are two common ways to handle trades in a league.
The first is owner approval. Under this format, if enough owners
vote against the trade, it is rejected. I can’t endorse
this system for a number of reasons. First, competitive nature
takes over and teams will vote against trades because it helps
their competition. Second, vengeance takes over and owners begin
vetoing trades of teams that vetoed their trades. Third, its not
really the owners job to manage any part of the league.
The method I prefer is commissioner approval. Just be ready to
get blasted every time an owner disagrees with your opinion. As
the commissioner, I’ve only rejected 1 trade in over 10
seasons of running leagues. Why did I reject it, it was an attempt
(in my opinion) at collusion. This should be the only reason a
trade is rejected. Bad trades happen in all sports, but if two
owners can justify what they were trying to get out of a deal
and I can see how it came together I’m going to approve
the deal even if it helps one team more than the other. The only
way I reject trades is if I feel one team isn’t trying to
make itself better in the trade.
As the commissioner, you’ll have owner complaints about
trades each year. Just stand your ground, explain that trades
aren’t meant to be fair, and get a thick skin. Ultimately
your league owners will respect you more if you explain your stance
and stick with it than if you go back and forth on trades or any
issues for that matter.
You need to realize that as the commissioner and a team owner
you’ll have a target for accusations of impropriety whether
they are real or imagined. You’ll need to thoroughly review
your rules and implement checks and balances that prevent you
from using your position to any competitive advantage. First off
you’ll need an assistant commissioner. He may not do much
but you’ll at least need someone to review your trades.
It’s best if this person isn’t a close friend or relative.
Another example of the need for checks and balances is in the
free agent bid process. In my league, our bid rules don’t
adapt well to the automated bid system, so I process them manually.
Therefore I see all the bids when they come in. To resolve this,
my bid is due to the assistant commissioner one day prior to the
league deadline. That way my owners can submit their bids with
the assurance that mine cannot be altered after theirs come in.
Little nuances like these need to be examined and planned for.
In 10+ years I’ve only had one owner accuse me of cheating
and I still haven’t really figured out what his specific
complaint was. But be prepared to deal with this because if you
run leagues long enough, it’s bound to happen.
Realize that I glossed over so many issues, ways to play, and
ways to handle situations. Ultimately there is no procedure manual
for setting up and running a league. It takes years of playing
to be exposed to all the different rules and setups and even then,
the options are limitless. My advice to someone who is looking
to run a league for the first time is to take the best pieces
of your fantasy football experiences and put together a concept
for your league. Take your time and write down your rules.
I cannot emphasize that enough. Rules go way beyond the scoring
system and they allow for maximum enjoyment of your league with
minimum hassle. Finally, be prepared for conflict, its inevitable
and you’ll be required to resolve it. Be fair and firm in
your decisions and the majority of your owners will respect you
and thank you for your effort.