Friday - Jan 15, 2021

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Through the Commissioner’s Eyes: Keeping the League Together

In fantasy football, you typically crown one winner to reign for months on end as your fantasy football champion. When you are in this position, you will notice the grass is greener, the sun shines brighter and you actually care to listen that your wife’s Facebook friend posts far too many self-mirror pictures. Life is always great when on top. For the other odd number of your league, revenge, bitterness, rage and depression hamper their winter months until they finally arrive at draft day. If you have played in multiple fantasy leagues, it doesn’t take me saying that it is not only the most compelling and competitive day of the year, it is the most important for league solidarity. As a commissioner, you have the obligation to create a scene that will have your league members excited for the next five months of the year to help blockout the previous twelve.

I have successfully run a league for eight years that has remained strong with its core guys, and although it is never easy, I have kept mostly everyone happy with adaptations to the fantasy world. Below, you will find ideas that keep your leaguemates not only happy, but continuously interested and competitive based on my personal experiences.

Have a league constitution

Human nature is to defy authority. You may love your boss at work, but chances are you have felt that given the opportunity, you would in fact be better at his job. Being a commissioner of a fantasy league, no matter if you’re completely hands on or just the guy that hosts the draft, is no different. You must have a very tough chin and be able to accept that when you defeat your rival, he will rant about you being unjust regardless of his rhetoric.

Having a league constitution is almost as necessary as having a league draft. Rules don’t sound like much fun when talking fantasy football, but it will save you a lot of phone conversations and text messaging on why a tiebreaker is determined by bench points.

Some common things to include in your fantasy league constitution are point system, trading guidelines, important dates (deadlines, championship weeks) and winner payouts, or trophies if you are a free league, naming commissioner and co-commissioners and tiebreakers. Make sure to be open on others ideas of what should be in the league rules, as without them, the league wouldn’t exist. I will post more about my certain league’s constitution as the season gets closer to help anyone out there who is drawing a blank or trying too hard.

Set your draft date early

When your league is at the draft (which by this point may have been rescheduled multiple times) be sure to state a draft day for the following year. I tell my members to treat it like a wedding. If you know the draft one year in advance, there is no reason to be unavailable, other than death or disaster. If something beyond your control causes the draft to be moved, talk to each league member individually about what is the best day, down to what absolutely doesn’t work. Have your co-commissioner help with this.


The reason for failure among commissioners is due to one of the scariest words in the fantasy world: trade. As a commissioner, you must be strong and never deviate from league rules. While two owners may be very mad that you have denied their trade that reeked of collusion, nine other owners will generally be happy that their league’s integrity was not sacrificed. Have a rule on how to determine trades and stick to it. League votes, player values, something.

Be Innovative

Some personal examples:

Draft Order.   Knowing that I have a solid 12 in my fantasy football league, I decided that drawing paper numbers out of a hat was far too primitive for what we wished to accomplish. Why not make the draft a reward program? Each week of the fantasy season, my members do a pick’em for all NFL games. At the end of the year, that order determines the draft order. Knowing where you are drafting opens up so much strategy and trade talk for those who take fantasy football far more serious than real football, like me.

– Keeper League
. It’s becoming a sign of the time, but rarely do you have leagues that do not offer a keeper anymore. I hated the idea to go into being a keeper because I was worried it would diminish draft value, especially when all the guys you want are kept. The solution? Make a league rule that a first-round or second-round pick from the prior year cannot be kept the following year. This rewards those who draft well and keeps those who are ready to start over happy that they have an equal opportunity to get a top guy. Also, we can only keep a player for one year, making that guy very valuable at the trade deadline as a person requiring said player can keep him again. Owner loses the round of said keeper. Free Agents are a last round pick.

– Franchise Player
. To extend off the keeper rule, we implemented the idea to allow any player drafted in the 12th round or beyond to be a franchise player. He can be kept for his entire career with your team for the loss of no picks. You must designate him your franchise guy by Week 4 of that season. If you drop that guy, you move the following year to the 13th round and beyond to get your franchise player. This makes my guys do their homework and stay true to their players (like NFL teams). The ‘franchise player’ has no trade value for any other member and can only be a guy drafted by that team.

– Bad Luck rewards
. Every year, you have a first round guy get injured prior to Week 5 and that owner is “giving up this year.” Now, they have reasons to keep optimism. If your first-round player is on season-ending Injured Reserve by the end of Week 4, he may be your keeper for the loss of a 10th round pick. So say you had Jamaal Charles last year. Now you can have him for a 10th-round pick in 2012.

– Keep trying incentives
. When an owner experiences a loss, such as the one to Jamaal Charles, he can either try or tank. A lot of guys won’t put in the work to remain a fantasy force and start trading away for draft picks or keeper options. My response to this was to offer compensatory picks to the guys who miss the playoffs for the following year. We take six teams in our league, so the seventh-place finisher gets a seventh-round compensation pick. Eighth through 11th place goes from Eighth through 11th pick and the last-place finisher gets nothing. This will keep guys active and hesitant to trade away their good players.

– Conference Determination
. We have two conferences in our league. We determine these conferences by letting the previous year’s conference champs be the representatives and they pick, school yard style, who will go to each conference. Instead of picking for your conference however, you pick for theirs. You obviously try to put the best guys in your counterpart’s conference through a pick-by-pick process.

– Draft Day/Fun Day
. As I said, the draft should be the best day of your year. Schedule it to go for a while, provide food and drinks, and make everyone remember that day. I give each member a copy of the constitution, bye-week schedules, pencils, draft logs and a personalized folder with our league logo on it. Each member has his own space to set up a laptop and writing area. We have a 5-foot-by-6-foot draft board that is easily visible along with a TV showing slide shows of the previous year (from our league, results, pictures, comments – a lot of work but great entertainment for the draft). If everyone has a laptop, Google how to create a chat room and allow all to sign in, through this they can private message each other and talk trades during the draft without people hearing their business. As commissioner, I stand at a podium and have each owner write down their first round pick, where I announce it, accompanied by a video highlight showing on the TV that is custom made for that player (again, a lot of work but highly entertaining – you will need a co-commissioner to run the computer hooked into the TV)

As I complete the player highlight videos, I will post them on YouTube and link people in to watch.

The overall goal of this article is to help you, the hard working, integrity-keeping leader of the masses commissioner, keep the league together and happy. I hope you have decided to spice up your league a little bit and feel free to let me know what ideas have helped drive your league.

Now that you’ve read my pass, I got to run.

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