How to be a Fantasy Football Commissioner

A Fantasy Football primer on how to organize and rule your league the right way

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So, you want to be Commish?

Are you deeply skeptical of authority? Does the incompetence of your peer group make you doubt even the most basic tenets of democracy? Do you enjoy donning the purple robe and iron glove of absolute rule? Then perhaps you are ready — nay, destined — to be the commissioner of your Fantasy Football league.

Whether you wish to shepherd fathers-in-law and bosses through their first “friends and family” league or are ready to withstand an onslaught of challenges in your high-stakes league, early implementation of consistent rules and policies are a must to ensure competitive balance and quality-owner retention.

OFFSEASON

Offseason? You’re the commissioner now, so you get one week after the Super Bowl to think about your Fantasy Baseball tiers. Then, it’s back to work.

Recruit your league: You’ll want competitive owners who stay involved/obsessed the whole season, even if the early portion of the Fantasy year doesn’t go their way. It may seem obvious, but you must get people who really want to participate in a league. You’d be surprised how many people join a league just to see what the fuss is all about. Let them join another league. I’m sure they’re great people, but they stop setting their lineups after Week 5, leaving your league half empty and uncompetitive.

Consider League Size: Leagues usually range in size from 6 to 16 teams. Consider the experience of your owners before deciding how many should be included. In a very small league, every team will be loaded with superstars and will require much less skill to draft and manage. In a large league, owners will need to draft deeper and work the waiver wire harder. Think 8-12 teams for inexperienced owners, 12-16 teams for sharks.

Set the Rules: If this is your first season in a new league, it’s time to think about what kind of league you want. IDP? PPR? Blind bidding or rolling waivers? Some leagues have big starting lineups and a small bench. Others prefer the opposite. Think of all the leagues you have been in and customize your current league to incorporate your favorite features of those past ones. This is how your league will be defined, so take some time to build it the way you want. Once the rules are set, they’re set for the season.

Most hosting websites have templates for scoring and rules that you can adjust to fit your league, but note that some are more malleable than others. I won’t advocate for one over another; your own personal experience and that of the owners in your league should be enough of a guide to find the right fit.

Reward Excellence: After assembling the right owners, give them something to play for other than pride. Even modest stakes can motivate an owner for the entire season. Consider several ways to keep your league invested for the long haul. For instance, instead of paying out just the champion, pay those who finish in third or even fourth place. Also put aside money from the pot to pay weekly top scorers so that even if a team tanks early, that owner still has motivation to play well until the end. You can charge money for waiver wire transactions and trades; that’s an excellent source of extra funds for prizes.

Punish Ignorance: Occasionally losing a couple of bucks isn’t enough to entice your shiftless friends into paying attention. So you must penalize them. For example, make last place take the SATs, have them buy and wear the jersey of their favorite NFL team’s archrival to next year’s draft, or rename their team something terribly offensive. Regardless of your creative condemnation, heaping scorn and punitive measures on the losers will help maintain competitive balance all season long.

DRAFT DAY

By now you have decided if you prefer a snake draft or an auction, and you’ve given your league a draft date with ample time for them to prepare. Try to set the date as close to opening day as possible in order to limit the chances that rosters will be affected by preseason injuries.

Make the draft a holiday: This is your opportunity to set your league apart from the others. If at all possible, draft live and in person. I understand that many people have several leagues and busy schedules, but it’s the live draft that always stands out as the most fun.

Grab a stand-up draft board and head to Las Vegas. If that’s a bit much, have a Fantasy draft/barbecue cookout. Reserve a patio at a restaurant or a get a big hotel room. Cater it. Hire a waitress. Make it tiki-themed. Hire a retired NFL punter to call out the auction bids. Whatever you do, make it an event. Make it an exclusive party that your league’s owners talk about and look forward to. Make it the envy of all other leagues.

Collect the League Fees: Collect the league fees.

THE SEASON

The more work you do cementing your rules ahead of time, the less work you will need to do in season. Some commissioners allow for a democratic ruling on unexpected rule challenges and questionable trades while others prefer the pure autonomy of the sovereign.

Put a democratic process in place for “preferences.” For example, if the league cries out for a second flex spot or adding IDP settings, go with a vote. These are simply league preferences and giving everyone a voice creates a happier league. Reserve autonomous rule for the more important issues.

Collusion: Collusion is a cancer and it will ruin your league. Simply put, collusion represents any of the malign conspiracies to team up and circumnavigate the rules.

If Team A (8-3) makes a remarkably advantageous trade with Team B (3-8), and Team B shows up to the bar to collect a sack with dollar signs on it from Team A, you clearly have collusion. It happens all of the time, and you are the last line of defense for the good of your league. If you let collusion slide, those quality, rule-abiding owners will leave your league.

There will be times when someone hustles another owner for a beneficial trade. In fact, that’s encouraged. But as commissioner, it will be your job to tell the difference between a savvy trade with a newbie and two owners gaming the system. Deal with the latter as you see fit, as long as it’s not allowed in your league.

Be the Owner You Want to See in the World: Lead by example. Commissioners who continue to update their rosters, replace injured players and set their lineups will have owners who do the same.

Distribute Money in a Timely Manner: If you choose to embezzle the funds, you better be sure to win your league. If that isn’t a certainty, throw it in an interest-bearing account and pay up when the time comes.