Editor’s Note: This article is submitted by a new Member Corner author, Dan Meylor, who also penned the recent article about trusting certain GMs. We welcome Dan to the Member Corner and look forward to seeing more of his work in the future!
For a dynasty league commissioner, this is the time of year where things are quiet. There are no phone calls from outraged owners protesting a trade and nobody is posting smack talk on the message board that will stir up the entire league.
While the off-season is not very busy, it is an opportunity for all fantasy commissioners to step back and take a hard look at how things went and how to improve the league. Improving your league over the off-season is an excellent idea and should be done yearly. Trying to improve yourself, as a commissioner, should also be on the to-do list during the slow months of the fantasy schedule and can pay huge dividends when Fall comes around.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been doing just that and it got me thinking about the most important things commissioners should consider each year. So, I give you the eight questions every dynasty fantasy football commissioner should ask themselves before the 2013 season starts:
1.) Does your league have an official rulebook?
This is the most important question you’re going to ask yourself during this exercise. One of the fastest ways for a league to fall apart is to not have clear rules that govern it.
If you do not have a rulebook, you absolutely need to have one before next season begins. Everything from roster size and pay-out to scoring and the process for removing and adding owners must be covered in the rules. When creating your rulebook, try to think of every problem that could happen in a fantasy league (or any you have heard of happening) and make sure that issue is covered. And remember, you don’t have to get fancy when creating your rules, just make sure they are on paper.
2.) Does every owner have a copy of the rules?
Now if you don’t currently have a rulebook, you failed the first two – sorry about that. Get to work on a rulebook!
I don’t care if the rulebook is online or if you hand write the rules on paper, make copies and pass them out at the draft. The most important thing is that every owner needs access to the rules at all times. A fellow commissioner recently told me he likes to put a copy of the league’s rules on the message board at the beginning of every season. That way nobody can ever say that they were not informed about a rule. A good idea if you ask me.
3.) Does every league member vote on each proposed rule change?
This one is also essential.
Owners feel like they are a part of how the league is being run if they have a say in all rule changes. When a league is started, the commissioner generally builds the entire league and solely creates all the rules. As the league progresses however, it should be every owner’s vote that decides the rules that the owners play by.
If you are not currently voting on rule changes and need to start a voting process, try to keep the rules for making changes fairly simple. Yes, there need to be rules in your rulebook about changing rules. For example, every owner should have the opportunity to propose rule changes. No matter how senseless you may think a proposed change is, it needs to be talked about when rule changes are voted on. It would be very un-commissioner-like to not include a rule change proposal because you, as the commissioner, do not agree with it. Rule change proposals typically need a 60% – 75% vote to go into effect. So if the idea is that bad, it likely won’t be passed.
4.) Do rules changed wait at least one year to go into effect?
This rule absolutely must be included in all dynasty leagues. When participating in a dynasty league, owners make decisions with an eye towards the long term. You must account for that when you are changing rules, even when making the smallest change.
Imagine if you had Wes Welker in a standard scoring league (no PPR) and decided in the off-season not to keep him. Then at the draft, the league chooses to change to a full point per reception format starting that season. You would have probably kept Welker if you had known the change was coming.
Because of cases like this, commissioners should always give team owners time to adjust to every change to the rulebook.
Understandably, there are instances where a rule needs to be changed immediately. In those circumstances, it is nice to have a regulation in place that allows the rule change to go through if, but only if, all owners unanimously agree to the rule change and agree to allow it to be enforced immediately.
If you are running a league that makes all rule changes effective as soon as the new rule is passed, I strongly suggest your league vote on waiting a year to put rule changes into effect. The entire league may love the idea. And it will likely be passed unanimously and go into effect immediately. (He says with tongue firmly in cheek.)
5.) Have you ever vetoed a trade without evidence of collusion?
As fantasy league commissioners, we have an obligation to be un-biased. We have to be Switzerland when it comes to deals that are made, even the most lopsided ones. We should never take a stance against a trade unless it is absolutely necessary.
In my opinion, the only time the leader of a league should veto a trade is if he or she has proof of collusion. And I mean hard evidence. If you get in the habit of vetoing trades, league members will start to think that you are running the league for the betterment of your team, not the league.
Also keep in mind if you are forced to cancel a deal, the players involved in the vetoed trade should be off limits for your roster until at least the next off-season. You don’t want a team owner to think the only reason you nixed a deal is to get a player for your own team.
Some leagues choose to hold a league vote on trades. I have always been strongly against this practice. League owners tend to vote against trades only because they wish they had got the same deal. In my opinion, an owner should have the right to run their team as they wish. If they choose to trade a top quarterback for an unproven player and a draft pick, who am I to say he or she can’t?
6.) When you are talking to another league owner, do you refer to the league is “our” league, not “my” league?
This may sound silly to some, but it goes back to what we talked about in question three. League members want to feel like they have ownership in the league they are participating in. They don’t want to be told by the commissioner the league is his.
About ten years ago, I joined a fantasy league that had been going for just a few years. At the draft, the commissioner mentioned that in HIS league, HE would never allow a flex position. I immediately knew I would not be a part of that league the next year. Not because I disagreed with him, but because he was obviously not running the league as an un-biased commissioner.
If you take the small steps to make owners feel welcome, you will have much less turnover in the league.
7.) When a new team takes over for a team that is leaving the league, does the new owner have the same off-season benefits as every other owner?
Again, this comes down to owners feeling welcome and like they are part of a league. When a new owner is joining a dynasty league, it is difficult for him or her to be competitive because most teams that leave dynasty leagues do so when the franchise is not in good shape. The new owner also has to learn all the rules as well as get to know all the other owners. It takes a while for new owners to feel like they have a good grasp on how a league works after joining. It is even harder if they have to start from scratch.
At the very least, every new team should be given the entire roster of the team that they are replacing. They should be able to make roster decisions exactly as if the previous owner was still running the team.
Some leagues give new teams benefits such as the #1 overall draft pick or the ability to cut a player with a bad contract without any salary cap ramifications. Due to the poor state the replaced team is likely in, it can be difficult to get a quality replacement owner. Giving the new owner a perk like this can entice him or her to take on the embattled team.
8.) Do the owners in your league have access to all league finances?
The final question you need to ask yourself is a big one. The worst feeling a commissioner can have is when he or she is being questioned by a league member about where some of the money went. Commissioners stay out of those situations by being honest and open about the money that was given to him or her at the beginning of each season.
The easiest way to show everybody all funds got paid out is to type a quick e-mail at the end of the season that details how much money the league started with, what money went to league expenses and what money went to the winners. Send the e-mail to each owner and nobody should ever question the handling of the league’s cash.
When there is money on the line, owners appreciate it when the person handling it is upfront with everyone.
Those are eight questions every commissioner should ask themselves this off-season. Whether you agree with all of them or not, hopefully you came away with an idea of how to not only improve your league, but also develop yourself as a commissioner.
In my opinion, a fantasy football dynasty league is only as strong as the person who runs it. If that person takes the role of commissioner seriously and is genuinely interested in making the league enjoyable for each owner, the league will prosper.
There is no better time than right now to try to improve your dynasty league. For your efforts, league members will enjoy the league more and should never question your skills as a commissioner.
Follow Dan on Twitter - @dmeylor22.