Last Week’s Question - Should fees for commissioners be
In Week 15, I asked readers whether fees for commissioners should
be waived/discounted. I received a range of responses, but I want
to start with Ken’s take (because it represents a commendable
attitude about cheerfully taking up a the commish’s burden
for the fun of it):
We do not have a discount, and as the commissioner I
have not even contemplated such. I enjoy sports and lead the league
as part of my desire to enhance the esprit de corps of the work
I am going to [lobby for a tweak to the] playoff system next year
[to allow] more teams to stay invested longer. I will also try
for an auction draft (I tried this year but unsuccessfully).
I am sure other commissioners are looking at ways to improve the
fantasy football process, which is supposed to be fun after all.
Even though Ken’s 2nd & 3rd paragraphs don’t really
pertain to the question about fees, I included them to demonstrate
Ken’s motivation, which is to maximize the fun factor for
everyone in the league. A commish who shares this same attitude
is likely to serve without expecting any compensation.
However, some leagues include a few very demanding, high-maintenance
participants. The ideal solution may sometimes be to rotate the
commissioner’s duties from one owner to the next each year,
but this can fail for at least two reasons: 1) not everyone is temperamentally
suited to serve as commish; & 2) few leagues last long enough
for the burden of commissioning to be equally distributed among
For those reasons, I understand why some leagues have decided to
compensate commissioners (to varying degrees). I have no qualms
with an approach like Carl’s, as long as it is spelled out
clearly to all participants:
I have been running my league for 29 years now and have always
collected 10% of the kitty. Granted our league has evolved in
the last 29 years, including our entry fee rising from $25 in
1990 to $130 now. We started with 14 teams back then and have
bounced over the last ten years between 12-14 teams. Back in the
early days when everything was done by hand, I calculated the
scores of our games using the newspaper on Monday morning--not
to mention staying home on Friday nights until 7 to make sure
everyone phoned in their line ups. The cut I get now is just making
up for all the hard work I did then. Granted it is a much easier
job these days using the MFL program; however, I still have to
coordinate all the guys in my league to do our live draft (a job
in itself) and make sure they are staying active etc.. Of the
12 teams we currently have playing, 7 are founding fathers of
the league and 3 more have been playing for 20-25 years and none
complain about my 10% cut which usually covers my entry and most
of my fees Maybe they are just used to it!
As someone who remembers commissioners calculating scores by
hand, I can understand Carl’s impulse to say that he is
being compensated now for work he did back then. But I wouldn’t
recommend that commissioners who feel this way say so--especially
to league newcomers (who will probably resent the idea of retroactively
subsidizing a service rendered long ago to someone else). Nevertheless,
the nuisance of collecting fees (especially in leagues with entry
fees over $100 and additional, unpredictable charges for transactions)
is, in my opinion, enough to justify a commission all by itself.
Last week I mentioned that my oldest league waives the fee for
the commissioner and always has. It was therefore a pleasure to
hear from Michael:
Our league has been in existence since 1993. Our yearly dues
are $20. The commissioner is exempt from paying [the annual fee,
but is on the hook for transaction fees]. The dues we collect
are used to cover the website and the draft labels used on draft
night. In addition, the winner gets their choice of a $40 trophy
or cash. Winners automatically get their name added to the league
trophy that gets presented to the winner every year. (We also
pay $2 per waiver that is used to fund the draft night food.)
Since we are not a cash award league, this may seem like “small
potatoes”. However, we never wanted the league to be about
money, but about camaraderie and friendship. We have seen some
events and decisions in big money leagues turn into arguments
and hard feelings between owners. We never want that to happen.
As commissioner the past 20 years, I bet I do more than $20 per
year of work keeping the league functioning. A few newer owners
have joked that “they don’t pay me enough to do this
job”. This is especially true when potential grey areas
of league rules are put to the test and a commissioner ruling
needs to be made.
All in all, the $20 league waiver fee is good enough for me.
As I mentioned before, the league is about friendship and not
money. Perhaps that’s why our core of owners have been in
the league for over 25 years.
Although I could have cut Michael’s note shorter, I wanted
to be sure to include his second paragraph as a reminder that
fantasy football really should be more about fun than money. With
high stakes come high emotions--and, inevitably in some cases--long-standing
resentments. Congrats to Michael’s league for keeping its
priorities straight. It’s no surprise that, in such a context,
Michael is happy to continue serving as commish even if he is
Drew’s league didn’t start with a policy like Michael’s,
but eventually found its way there:
I have been the acting commissioner of a league in North Carolina
since 2008. We have a conservative entry fee of just $60, but
the way the payouts are delegated makes for a fun, competitive
league with bragging rights being the biggest motivator.
While we began with everyone paying the same amount, it was brought
up a few years ago that the commissioner's fee should be waived.
I obviously supported it 100%, but would have done so whether
I was commissioner or not, especially considering how involved
my role is. Throughout the season I write weekly reviews on Tuesday
mornings that add some personal/historical data that the Yahoo
generated recaps don't provide. I also think a dedicated commissioner
is monitoring all activity throughout the season, open to possible
rule changes/adjustments and attempts to schedule get togethers
during the season so we can smack talk in person while watching
Red Zone. Creating a tradition and growing a league that can last
for years takes a little more effort/time. That, in my opinion,
more than justifies the commissioner's fee being waived. Obviously,
if our league was a $1000 buy in, we would adjust accordingly
and I would be more than happy to accept a discount. But $60 bucks
spread over 16 weeks is really a drop in the bucket.
I love the role of commissioner, even though I am yet to win
the whole thing in 11 tries (currently in the semis). I created
a logo for our league, had custom leather pint koozies made and
will pass out pint glasses featuring the logo to all the managers.
It's the little things that can separate a casual league from
one that provides the type of fellowship and competition that
I agree with Drew’s point that waiving a $60 fee for a
commissioner who produces weekly reports (in addition to handling
all other details of league management) amounts to a paltry wage
per hour. However, even if the compensation works out to less
than minimum wage, a fee waiver is a nice way for a league to
recognize the value that active commissioners bring to the fantasy
I hope Drew did well in his semis. He also included a sample
writeup with his email. I pasted it in the comment section of
last week’s article so that readers can find all the samples
in one place.
My thanks to everyone who wrote in.
This Week’s Question: What is the best tiebreaker in the
I’ve seen & heard multiple comments in the past week
about how bad an idea it is to use the score of bench players
to break ties in the fantasy playoffs. I agree. If my opponent
is weak at TE, you better believe I’ll have a handful of
TEs on my roster just to keep them from being played against me.
If my opponent is weak at defense, I’ll do the same thing
with defenses. That’s the spirit of competition at work.
But using bench scores as a tiebreaker means I should probably
go after QBs instead of trying to block my opponent’s access
to TEs or defenses. That makes no sense.
Maybe you know of a worse tiebreaker than bench points. If so,
please let me know what it is.
But I’m more interested in learning whether there’s
a consensus about the best tiebreaker. I can see a strong case
being made for awarding the win to A) the team with the greater
point total on the season or B) the higher-seeded team. I’ll
reserve my opinion for now. What’s yours?
If you have a strong preference for one of those methods over
the other (or for an alternative I’ve overlooked), please
explain your position in the comment section below or by emailing
Survivor Pool Picks
#3 Broncos over Lions (12-3; PHI, BAL, SF, lar, NE, WAS,
GB, NO, SEA, ind, MIN, BUF, KC, hou, NO)
Congratulations if the Ravens (10-point favorites in Cleveland)
are available to you. I can’t imagine they’re still
available to anyone. But you know who probably is available? The
Broncos. And this week, they’re playing the Lions. There
were rumors of a possible resurrection of Matthew Stafford for
the end of the season, but those rumors were greatly exaggerated.
Stafford is now officially on IR, which means the Lions will roll
with undrafted rookie David Blough once again, which means Detroit
will almost certainly lose. Blough’s 3:5 ratio of TDs to
turnovers (in his first 3 games) tells you exactly what to expect
from him (except that things could easily become much worse on
the road at high altitude). Gimme Denver.
#2 Seahawks over Cardinals (8-7; HOU, BAL, NE, ind, kc,
lac, SF, MIN, BUF, no, car, CHI, phi, GB, lar)
The Seahawks are 9.5-point favorites playing at home with a lot
at stake. They face the 49ers again next week, and a loss against
the Cardinals could easily mean the difference between the top
seed in the NFC (with a bye week and home field advantage through
the conference championship) and the top wild card spot (with
no rest and an unpredictable travel schedule). If I know anything
about Russell Wilson, it’s that he understands the importance
of this win & can single-handedly will the Seahawks to victory.
But this one makes me nervous. The Seahawks started the season
thin at receiver, and they’ve lost Josh Gordon to yet another
suspension. Then too, remember that divisional games are never
a cakewalk, especially against a team with an unpredictable QB
like Kyler Murray showing more than occasional flashes of brilliance.
I’ll bet on Wilson if I have to place a bet, but I would
rather put my money on another game.
I’ve taken the Colts in the #2 and #3 slots this season,
& I was wrong both times. I should probably steer clear of
them now, but I seriously like their chances at home against the
rudderless Panthers. Admittedly, Jacoby Brissett looked lost against
the Saints on Monday night, but he usually plays much better than
that. So what if Brissett wilted in response to Drew Brees’
storybook, record-breaking performance? Things will be very different
for Brissett and the Colts vs. rookie third rounder Will Grier
in his first start under center for Carolina.
Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999--and
playing video games even longer than that. His latest novel (concerning
a gamer who gets trapped inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms)
can be found here.