Top 9 Fantasy Football Commissioner Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Fantasy Football commissioner mistakes to avoid.
A good fantasy football league starts with a good league commissioner. The commissioner’s actions help determine whether the season goes smoothly and if owners will want to rejoin next year. Those decisions can also affect how much time is required to manage the league. Any serious commissioner mistakes can hurt your league’s chances of success.

Below is a list of the top mistakes commissioners make. Whether you’re a first time commissioner or a veteran, avoiding these fumbles will help you be a better commissioner. They are also good warning signs for team owners to look for and decide if they have a good commish or not.

These commissioner mistakes apply to most fantasy sports leagues, not just fantasy football.

Don’t be the fantasy league commissioner who makes any of these mistakes…

1. Start Planning Late.

The NFL won’t wait for you to get your fantasy league ready. There are things that have to be done for a league to run smoothly and a hard deadline to get them done. That’s why starting late is one of the worst mistakes a commissioner can make.

From registering your league to planning the draft party, you’ll be much better off if you start early. Starting early will give you time to recruit players, book a good online draft time slot and deal with any issues that come up before the draft.

To avoid falling behind, follow the simple schedule below.

June – Register your league. Choose a draft date and send invites.
July – Finalize the league rules. Have all players registered and paid up. Plan your draft party.
August – Draft!

2. Change Rules After the Draft or the Season Starts, Especially to Benefit Themselves.

Team owners use the league’s scoring rules to build their pre-draft rankings and cheat sheet. They use that info during the draft to determine which player is their best choice for each pick.

Changing the scoring rules after the draft screws all that up and frustrates owners. It can also create the impression that the change was to benefit one or more teams. Maybe even yours.

To avoid this allow enough time for everyone to review the league scoring and rules so that they can raise issues well before the draft. Once the rules are set, don’t change them.

3. Don’t Communicate to the League.

People like to know what’s going on and what to expect. Keeping your league in the dark about dates, rule changes and other league business causes unnecessary confusion and frustration.

Avoid this mistake by sending out league info and updates as soon as there’s new info to share. Send reminders of upcoming events. Make sure everyone knows about any new or unusual rules.

A good example of the last one is if your league switches to an auction draft. Tell your league the reason for the change and what they should expect to help make the transition easier.

Before making a big rule change like that, let the league know what you’re considering and why. Ask for their feedback.

You could also consider writing a rules document for your league. The commissioner of a league I’ve played in for over a decade does this. He lists out the important dates, draft format, trade rules, payouts, and other info that governs the league. It works well because everyone gets a copy with their league invite and he can reuse it every season with minor edits.

4. Don’t Collect All Entry Fees Prior to the Draft.

Chasing people around for their entry is the least fun job of a commissioner. Collecting money is much easier before the draft than after an owner has a losing record and no shot at making playoffs.

Even if you’ve known someone for forever or know they’re good for it, there’s still a chance they’ll stiff you and the league.

To avoid this set a firm deadline a week or more before the draft. Communicate this to your league when you send out the draft date and entry info. Then send reminders. If a player doesn’t pay by the deadline, then kick him or her out of the league. Make sure you have a stand-by player to take their place.

If that seems too severe, consider alternate penalties like making that player go last in the draft order. But make sure you get the entry fee.

5. Pay the Winners Late or Not at All.

Seriously? Your league members paid their entry fees on time. They trusted you with their money. Now you’re going to drag your feet paying out their winnings? Or, worse, be a thief who doesn’t pay at all?

Pay on time. A reasonable payout time frame is within 1-4 weeks after your league’s championship game.

6. Play Favorites or Commit Collusion.

Would you want to play in a league where the commissioner sides with their buddy on every trade dispute or lets them slide on things no one else gets away with? Or makes secret deals with another player to stack their team (i.e. collusion)?

Nobody wants a crooked commissioner. It’s your duty to be objective and impartial when evaluating questionable trades or other issues. Even if the decision could adversely affect your team or your best friend’s team.

To avoid this you have to run your league with integrity. Consider all sides of an issue and make your decisions as objectively and impartially as possible. Avoid doing anything that even smells like collusion.

If there’s a serious issue involving your team then consider recusing yourself and put it up to a league vote to remove any potential conflict of interest.

7. Don’t Think Through Scoring or Rule Changes.

Seemingly minor scoring changes can have a big impact on the relative value of certain positions. Maybe you want to increase passing touchdowns from Yahoo’s default of 4 fantasy points to 6 points (like a real touchdown). Cool. Now the QBs in your league will typically score an extra 2 to 6 fantasy points per game, making them 10 to 30 percent more valuable (assuming 1-3 passing TDs per game and average QB score of 20 fantasy points). Is that really what you want?

The non-scoring related settings can also impact your league. These include roster position changes, waiver wire rules, and playoff format.

Think about the possible impact of a change first. Then decide if you’re OK with it or want to counter it somehow. Impact could include complaints from some league managers. No one will agree with every decision.

This isn’t meant to discourage you from pre-draft scoring changes. Scoring how you want is part of the fun of fantasy football so set up your league’s scoring however you like.

Remember to notify your managers of any rule changes before the draft.

8. Make Commissioner Duties Time Consuming.

From scrutinizing every trade deal to fielding last minute lineup change requests, there are many ways that being commissioner can suck up your time. And that doesn’t include the time it takes to manage your own team.

Not only can these things eat up your time, they can also turn into a big headache. To avoid that, do three things: Keep it simple, automate and delegate.

Keep it simple. Simple rules are easier for everyone to understand and follow. For example, set clear boundaries that you are not your league’s 24×7 lineup support desk. If someone calls and says they need to make a change but don’t have internet access, that’s their problem, not yours. Be firm on this rule.

Automate where possible. The fewer things you have to do manually the better. For example, don’t set a rule that the commissioner will review every trade within 12 hours. Why would you want to do that? Instead set a rule that all trades will auto-approve within 2 days unless protested in the system by another league member. That way the majority of trades get approved and you only have to intervene when there’s a need.

Delegate tasks where you can or ask for volunteers. Certain tasks (handling of entry fees is a good example) should only be done by the commish, but others can be done by a league member. If someone else wants to plan the draft party, let them unless you really want to do it.

9. Act Like a Dictator.

There’s a line between being the final decision maker for the league and acting like a dictator. Using your position as commissioner to retaliate against someone in the league or making self-serving rule changes halfway through the season, for example, cross that line.

To avoid this make decisions that are based on what’s best for the league. Remember that fantasy football is supposed to be a fun game with friends, family and co-workers. It’s not your personal fiefdom or an excuse to go on a power trip. Don’t be a jerk.

Final Thoughts

Now you know the biggest fantasy commissioner mistakes and how to avoid them. Serving as the commish can be challenging at times. It can also be rewarding and a lot of fun.

Steering clear of these potholes will help you make this fantasy season a better experience for you and your fellow league members.

Good luck and have a great season!

Image Credit: Keith Allison used under Creative Commons.

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