Getting Started as a Commissioner
To begin with, you need to sit down for a bit and think about the type of league that you want to have. You need to make some key decisions before moving forward and once those are in place, you'll be able to get things rolling. Use this article as a guide to get things started, and check into the other sections when you get to that point.
Money or Not? How Competitive Will Your League Be?
The most basic questions to answer right out of the gate is if you are going to charge a league fee and pay prize money. Everything about your league really starts with this question. If plan on running just a friendly league where no money is collected, much of your approach will be laid back and open. If you plan on collecting money, you need to be much more focused in your approach. You need to ensure balance and fairness. You need to make sure that everyone is fully engaged. You should be as certain as possible that people can't cheat somehow by helping each other or tanking a game. You must create a league constitution that is as detailed as possible, and you need to try to anticipate as many of crazy things that can happen as possible and try to plan for them.
If you have a pay league, you need to decide how much money that you want each owner to pay. You want to charge enough to keep it interesting, but not so much that you have trouble recruiting owners. Will you charge a transaction fee for free agency or trades? If you do, how will you divide it up at the end of the season? How will you divide the prize money? Will you award weekly prizes or will it be winner take all? Any additional fees or prizes will also have to be determined before you start.
In a pay league, you may also want to use a premium online service (see below). If so, you should consider collecting the league software fee on top of the prize money. You may also consider working out a way help defer the cost of the draft night festivities, such as through penalties for different infractions like starting a guy on a bye week. Finally, if you are going to run a money league, make sure that everyone pays their initial fee up front before the draft begins and make sure that the money is placed in a safe place until the end of the season. The quickest way to ruin a money league is to have some guys promise to pay later, only to stiff the league when they start losing too many games. Even worse is when the commissioner spends the money during the course of the season and not have the payout available when the season ends. Resolving these potential issues up front can save you a ton of pain and suffering down the road.
Picking a Scoring System
Once you know if your league is for money or not, your next step is to determine what the scoring system of your league will be. Your scoring system forms the basis of your entire league and is what will ultimately determine which team is the winner overall. It will also help in recruiting owners because some may not want to be in certain types of leagues. While you can certainly tweak the rules from year to year, your opening pitch will set the tone of the league from day one.
The most basic of leagues is based strictly on scoring, giving six points for every touchdown, whether it is via passing, rushing, or receiving. Defenses get points for special teams touchdowns, turnovers, and sacks. If you want to reward players for their performance, you can add points for yardage, such as one point for every 10 yards rushing/receiving and one for every 20 yards passing. You can even award a point to any player that makes a reception. You can also expand defensive scoring by awarding points based on how many yards or points the defense allows in a game.
To make things even more interesting, you can switch things up and go with more realistic league formats such as an auction league or a league that uses individual defensive players (IDP). You can expand the typical starting lineup to include flex players and even adjust scoring systems based on the position such as giving two points to a tight end for a reception, but only 0.5 to a running back. Think about some of the owners that you want to recruit before going too far down this route because some owners may not want to play in an auction or IDP league. Some owners prefer more NFL-like scores to their games and only want basic touchdown scoring implemented. Ultimately it is your call as commissioner, but keep these things in mind when making these decisions early.
Picking the Right League Software System
There are plenty of league software systems to help you run your fantasy league. Big professional sites like Yahoo and CBS offer commissioners the ability to create free leagues as long as you sign up with their service. Most of these sites also offer a premium version of their software that allow for expanded scoring rules and starting lineups. Sites like MyFantasyLeague.com are premium-only, but offer a wide range of options for rules and lineups. Google fantasy football league software and you'll find pages and pages of examples.
In leagues that don't have prize money, you are either forced to pony up the money yourself or go with some of the free league options. In money leagues, you can shop around a bit, or even split the league cost among all of the owners on top of the league fee. Whatever your decision though, make sure to test drive the software before you commit to using it. Most commissioner sites allow you to configure your league first before making the decision to purchase it. You should try out a couple different versions to make sure the league offers what you need.
Along those same lines, you need to compare your proposed scoring system with the league software that you are thinking of using. One of the must frustrating things that can happen as a commissioner is to come up with some great scoring rules and then find out that your league software doesn't support them. Starting from scratch, you can test out both the scoring rules and the league software at the same time to make sure that everything works the way you want.
Recruiting the Right Owners
Now that you've determined the basics of your league, you need to find the guys who are going to play in it. You may already have a group of people in mind, but you may need to add a few more once everyone knows the type of league that you are running. Start by recruiting guys that you trust, especially those that have played fantasy football before. Let them know what you're doing and why. It will be a great incentive for them to join your league.
Ultimately you're looking for owners that are active. You want folks who will be engaged at all points throughout the year. You want the guys who are always wheeling and dealing with trade offers. You want guys that will be logging into the website three or four times (or more) a week. You want the guys who you won't have to chase for their lineups, and you want the guys who will pay their money up front and can be trusted to pay their transaction fees as well.
If you are going to start an auction or IDP league, you might want to limit the number of rookie owners that you add to the league. If you have eight guys who have all played IDP and four owners that have never played, they might have a rough time adjusting to the new format. If you do have an owner or two who are new to fantasy football or maybe the format that you want to run, you might want to give them a crash course in how the league is run.
From time to time though, you may need to find a replacement owner. If that time comes, it's best to start with the guys inside the league. They know the ins and outs of the league, and can really help convince new owners why they will want to play in your league. If you can't recruit the right owners, you are faced with a couple choices. If the league is internet based, you can put out a notice on different message boards such as the ones at Footballguys.com. We have a forum for owners who are looking for leagues and leagues that are looking for owners. If you have a face-to-face league, you can still look to the message boards or you can look at contracting the league down by an owner for a year or two. Just make sure that you don't reduce the league beyond a point that really changes the format of the league. Going from 12 teams to 10 is acceptable. Going down to six teams completely changes the dynamics of the league.
A Good Start
With these items in place, you'll be well on your way to launching your own fantasy football league. Ultimately there is no better teacher than experience, and plowing through your first year will take you farther than anything you'll be able to anticipate now. Do your best to gather as much information as you can from this series here at Footballguys.com, and don't be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of us that have been doing this for many years, and we are always willing to help out.
Methods of Acquiring Players
As commissioner of your fantasy football league, one of your primary responsibilities is overseeing how teams acquire players. Owners acquire players through three primary methods: The draft, weekly free agency, or trades with other owners. Each of these three methods involves very different situations, and different levels of oversight. This guide will provide you with different ideas on how to handle each of these situations, and pick and choose the ones that make the most sense for your league.
ACQUIRING PLAYERS THROUGH THE DRAFT
Without a doubt, the single most important night of the season is the draft night. It's the opening ceremony to 17+ weeks of fantasy football goodness. It's also where teams begin to build the team that they hope will take them to the championship. The draft can be run a variety of different ways, and this section will discuss a few of them.
A quick note on predraft preparations. You should circulate the most current version of your league constitution to everyone in the league a week or two before the draft starts. This way owners have a chance to review it and ask questions. If you have been running a league for a few years and have implemented some rule changes during the summer, create a one-page executive summary of the rule changes. Circulate that as well. Have at least one copy of the constitution handy the night of the draft and pass out your summary sheet again before the draft starts.
If your league collects an entry fee from each owner, collect it from every owner before the draft starts. It's nothing personal, but it just works better for everyone if all owners pay up front. There is no chance that someone will stiff the league, and there are no exceptions because every owner must follow this rule. If at all possible, you should hold the money in a separate bank account so that it is readily available when the season is over.
The most popular version of the draft is the live, in person draft where all of the owners of the league gather in one location and compete against each other to draft the best team possible before the season starts. This can be hosted at someone's house, or local bars and restaurants frequently offer specials for commissioners who make reservations. Make sure that everyone knows the start time and has cleared their schedule for that evening. Once everyone has arrived and has asked all questions about the rules, the draft can begin. Everyone can draw numbers out of a hat to determine the draft order, and the team with pick 1.01 is officially on the clock.
It is good to have a time keeper and set a limit on how much time each owner has to make their pick when they are on the clock. However, you don't necessarily have to start keeping time on people if the draft is moving at a good pace. The first rounds usually go pretty well, and time doesn't become an issue until the later rounds when people can't really decide who they want to take. In most cases, having a designated time keeper with the threat to use it if people take too long usually keeps everyone moving in the right direction. If things ball behind, turn the timer on.
You should also nominate one person to keep track off all the picks for the league. If you have a specific league software, that person can just enter the picks into the software. Make sure whatever method used is easy to scan. Everyone has been in a league where one owner asks "Has the Seattle defense been taken yet?" some six rounds after they are already gone. The guy who is keeping track of the picks will have the answer immediately at their finger tips.
If you can't have everyone in one place at the same time, the next best alternative would be to have an online draft. Think of this as a virtual live draft, where everyone is on at the same time, making their picks as if they were in the same room together. This usually takes place in a league chat room, and it has the added benefit of everyone being at home. If you have to run your draft this way, ensure that everyone knows the proper start time. Acquire a cell phone number for each person in the draft as well so that if someone loses internet connection or there is a power failure, you can call them on the phone. Timekeeping is critical during this type of event as people can walk away from their computer or become distracted at home. Just make sure that if someone drops out for whatever reason and can't be reached, you have a simple contingency plan in place to continue the draft. In most cases, turning on the auto draft of the best available players based on their average draft position will fill in the team without totally messing up the owner's team and causing an imbalance in the rest of the league.
In some cases though, you simply can't get everyone together at the same time, even online. In that case, you can implement a slow-live draft - where people make their picks over several days, and eventually everyone completes their roster. A timer is critical in this case because people have an incentive to drag the draft out. The longer the draft runs, the more training camp battles that are decided and the more question marks about certain players that get answered. A timer keeps everyone focused on keeping the draft moving. The key here is to have a clear understanding of what happens to a team if they miss a pick and the timer expires. You can either skip that person and let them add a player when they have time, or you can give them back to back picks in the next round. The key with everything is just to keep the draft moving. The timer can initially be set for 10 or 12 hours and shut off at night. As the start of the season gets closer, the length of the timer should shorten. The expectation that should be placed on every owner is that they log into the website at least once a day and that they predraft their picks as much as possible. If one of your owners can't be online, have them send you a list of available players that they want in order. When it comes time for their pick, you just award them the highest available player on that list. You need to be prepared to do whatever it takes to get the draft finished. In extreme cases, the draft may still be going on after the first game - and people will just have to start whoever they have on their roster at that time. This threat usually gets people moving to finish the draft. As you might expect, this is the most labor intensive option for a commissioner to use.
ACQUIRING PLAYERS THROUGH FREE AGENCY
Free agency is a big part of fantasy football and a well run free agency system can mean the difference between an okay league and a great one. Here are some different ideas on how to manage free agency throughout the regular season.
Timing is the key with any free agency. Each week should have a beginning and ending period for free agency - usually Tuesday or Wednesday through the kickoff of games on Sunday. You don't want free agency to be going on during the games because not everyone will have access to a computer. If you have a definite start and end time each week, people will know exactly what they have to do to acquire new players. In competitive leagues, you may also want to disable free agency during the playoffs. While it's hard to imagine adding someone that you would want to start by that point in the season, it can also be a big letdown if the No. 1 running back in the league goes down, and the guy who came into the playoffs on a wild card picks up the injured player's backup running back and goes all the way to the Super Bowl.
Depending on the size of your rosters, you might also consider placing a limit on the number of free agent moves that a team can make in a given week. If a roster has 20 people on it, and you allow five free agency transactions a week, that's a 25% roster turn over in one week. While that certainly builds up the transaction pool (if you have one), it can create unnecessary churn with teams adding and dropping players each week, without putting much thought about who they want to have on their roster.
The most basic form of free agency is first come, first served (FCFS). Owners can drop and add players as often as they want (up the limit), once the free agency period opens. Owners will camp out waiting for the free agency period to open, and there will be mad dash to grab the top waiver wire pick of the week. This method ignores record, and even the top rated teams can grab the hot free agent. It rewards the team that happens to be online when free agency opens. If an owner is at work or won't be available when the free agency kicks off, they can't preload a list of free agents.
A more balanced approach to free agency takes advantage of the waiver wire order of most fantasy software sites. As commissioner, you set a priority of who gets first crack at the free agents (usually worst overall record or lowest total points scored) when the free agency period begins. Free agency is one or two rounds where owners can preload a priority list and they get the best available player on their list. This method helps owners who may not be available when free agency opens, and rewards the weaker teams in the name of a more competitive balance for the whole league. The drawback of this is that if owners forget about a bye week or injured starter, it may be too late to make a change before the lineup locks.
A hybrid model can also be used to incorporate both a waiver wire order and a first come, first served model. You open free agency based on the waiver wire priority for the first round or two. This gives the weakest teams the opportunity to grab the more popular waiver wire pickups each week. Once the first two rounds are over, open it up to first come, first served so that anyone can adjust their roster as necessary. This continues to reward the weaker teams in the name of league balance, but also gives owners the ability to wait for FCFS waivers and add people there. If you want to adopt this model, check to be certain that your league software supports it.
However, if you want to truly level the playing field with all of the owners, the best way run free agency is to use blind bidding free agency. First you give every owner a certain number of free agency bidding units. Each owner then blindly bids on each free agent week to week, and the team with the highest bid wins the free agent. This way every team gets an equal shot at every free agent, and the only limit is the free agency salary cap. If a team uses all their free agency bidding units up in Week 1, they must survive the season without any waiver wire moves, even if they can't field a starting lineup. If you want to take it up a notch from there, make the free agency units eligible for trading. This way, if someone overspends, they need to give up a player or draft pick to get additional units.
ACQUIRING PLAYERS THROUGH TRADES
Trades are the easiest thing for commissioners to administer. The trade negotiation happens between the two owners, and the trade is executed. The only thing that the commissioner has to do is police the trades at the end and be certain that neither of the teams involved is trying to pull something shady.
Some leagues require a trade confirmation - where both owners must double confirm the trade before the commissioner processes it through the league software. While this keeps both owners from making a mistake while trading, it really puts an unnecessary step into the trade process. If the commissioner is unavailable for a day or two, a trade can go days without being processed. The vast majority of the time, however, the trade is worked out fairly between the two owners and the commissioner doesn't need to be involved.
Allowing the league to vote to accept or veto a trade should never be used. On the one hand, you may be tempted to let the league veto trades as a way to police against collusion. If the league can override a trade, people are less likely to pull a fast one on another owner. However, what happens is that a trade will come through where it looks like one owner is the clear winner and the other team was fleeced. The league reacts, half of them because they don't want an opponent to get a big advantage, half of them because they didn't get there first, and they vote to override the trade. This creates hard feelings on a lot of different fronts, and ultimately creates more harm than good. You need the ability to veto trades as the commissioner to prevent true collusion, but in 99% of the trades that will happen, you'll just let the trade go through without issue.
Some online software management systems force trades to be even on both sides - the same number of players given as received. If your software supports it, you should allow for trades of all shapes and sizes. Draft picks, players and any mix that owners can think of. If your league allows for free agency bidding, consider allowing owners to trade bidding units as well. Anything that a team can use to acquire a player should be fair game.
Finally, in some money leagues, a transaction fee must be paid by both owners involved in the trade. While this adds more money to the transaction pot (if one exists), this is really a personal preference thing. On the one hand, anything that adds more prize money can't be a bad thing. However, there is another point of view that it puts an unnecessary constraint on possible trades. Trades are a fun part of the league and provide interesting angles and story lines over the course of a season. Encouraging trades from a commissioner standpoint is a good thing. Give serious thought to requiring a transaction fee before implementing it.
The Importance of League Size
As commissioner of your league, it's your responsibility to make sure that the league is fun and competitive for everyone. Balancing the egos of your league mates, keeping the league competitive but not cut-throat and dealing with owners trying to bend the rules in every possible way to get an advantage can be a thankless job. However, having the right mix of owners can create a rewarding and long-standing bond within a fantasy football league. It is not uncommon for well run leagues to go ten or more years with many of the same owners. Long lasting friendships are often formed.
While the formula for a league that stands the test of time has many different forms and permutations, there is one place where that formula starts: How many owners do you want to have in your league. In some cases, you may be constrained by interest. It may be harder to find any more than eight guys who want to play. In others, such as an internet-based league, you may have an embarrassment of riches. Owners may have you faced with more interested people than you ever imagined. In this article we'll detail out the pros and cons of leagues with different sizes, and give you some things to think about when you're inviting people to join your league.
A Note about Owners
Regardless of the size of your league, the quality of the owners that you recruit can really make a difference. If you can only find eight people to play, but they are totally engaged and committed to playing week after week, your league will be significantly more interesting and fun than if you have 12 owners who simply show up and go through the motions each week. If you focus on getting quality people for your league, it will be massively successful, regardless of the size. This article will try to describe the pros and cons of having leagues of different sizes, and it will give you an idea of what it takes to run them.
FEWER THAN 8 TEAMS
In some cases, you may not be able to recruit seven other owners to play in your league. While it is technically feasible to run a fantasy league with fewer than eight owners, it is not advisable. Commissioners faced with this problem need to take some additional measures to keep everything interesting and competitive. Consider switching to an all-play league, rather than a head-to-head schedule. Each week owners will play every team in the league, and the team with the highest point total each week will go undefeated. Rosters in this league should be deeper than normal leagues because there will be plenty of talent to go around. You should also consider doubling the lineup requirements, such as having two quarterbackss, four running backs, six wide receivers, two tight ends, two place kickers, and two defenses each week. Scoring will be off the charts compared to other leagues, but it may be the only way to create enough distance between the strongest and weakest starters at every position. The free agent pool will be very deep in these leagues, and a team that has a strong draft will be very difficult to beat because other teams will not be able to make roster moves that are significant enough to be competitive. However, if you cannot recruit eight total owners for your league, a tiny-sized league may be your only chance to have a fantasy season. League owners should work hard to recruit additional teams for next season.
8 TO 10 TEAMS
While the typical fantasy football league consists of 12 teams, leagues with eight and ten teams are also fairly common. Despite their small size, they present some unique challenges for owners and commissioners alike. Here are some things to think about if you want a smaller fantasy league:
Smaller leagues create stronger teams. Scoring will be much higher from week to week because each team will be stacked from top to bottom. The draft night goes much faster, and the free agency pool is always deep with solid talent. There are most likely two divisions instead of four and you play the teams in your division more often than in leagues with 12 teams.
It's hard to overcome a bad draft in these leagues because it is so easy to build a team with studs at every position. Unless rosters are very deep, it's hard to carry sleeper players because the free agency pool contains so many starter-quality players. Free agency will be used a lot because teams can drop and add players based on their hot and cold streaks. Playoffs should be only two weeks long and only contain four teams. Otherwise, the regular season games become irrelevant because so many teams make the playoffs. Trades will be less likely because teams will all be deep in talent and the free agency pool will offer plenty of options.
Twelve teams are really the standard size in this hobby. There are enough teams to create a solid league breakdown by division and conference. The talent is spread out well among all of the teams and the free agency pool has just enough talent to help the weaker teams but not so much to create the rash of player movement like in smaller leagues. Trades are more frequent because teams can build depth at certain positions, which allows them to trade starting quality players without giving up their most important players. No league size is perfect, but 12 teams is really the standard that most leagues try to achieve.
14 TO 16 TEAMS
If you get a lot of people that are interested in your league, you can certainly run with more than 12 and still have a great time. It does present a few unique challenges though, so make sure that your owners fully understand that your league has more than the typical amount of teams before they commit to being involved.
Having more owners who are committed to playing fantasy football can't be bad right? Draft night is great because there is a lot of energy and a lot of different personalities all talking about football. Bigger leagues tend to be more interactive, and building your team through trading becomes a solid option because the free agency pool is so shallow. Stronger owners can be more speculative during the draft, and you can carry your sleeper picks longer and allow them to pan out. In money leagues, more teams means more prize money, giving you more options to pay out like weekly prizes for the top scoring team or bonus money for certain achievements at the end of the season. It's hard to build an unbeatable team through the draft, so the competition will be intense for the entire season.
The draft night is a little longer in these leagues, and getting everyone together for one night can sometimes be a challenge. It's hard to build depth in these type of leagues, and a team that has a bad draft may disengage early and eventually drop out. These leagues can be a bit more competitive, and it's not uncommon for owners to draft the backup player from another owner's team. Bye weeks can be a challenge because certain positions like quarterback, tight end, place kicker, and defense may not have enough backups to go around. If, for example, one guy in a 16-team league drafts three defenses, there will be one team that doesn't have another defense for when his starting unit is on a bye.
MORE THAN 16 TEAMS
When you get to a point that you have more than 16 active owners, the size of the league starts to get in the way of your success. Even if everyone is online, it's hard to get 18 people to block out four or five hours at one time. An in-person draft is nearly impossible, and most people don't have space in their home to host it so you'll have to find a bar or a restaurant. The draft itself could take several hours, and it slows down in the later rounds. With more then 300 players off of the board, it's hard to determine how you are going to round out the last few spots on your roster. A slow-live draft over several days on the internet has its own challenges, including keeping people engaged over several days and what to do if the timer runs out on a person. A draft over several days also runs the risk of a player being seriously injured, so owners tend to drag their feet, not wanting to potentially waste a draft pick. Once the season begins, you're going to have challenges with each team because the depth at each position will be very small. Flexibility in their starting lineup is the key to helping people field a competitive team from week to week.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is keeping people interested for the entire season. If you expand the playoffs beyond eight teams, you're going to need four weeks to resolve them. That will shorten the season and eliminate some teams much sooner. If you keep it at eight, then you lose more than half of the league when the playoff starts. It becomes a nightmare to manage and keep everyone excited. Once you hit 18 or 20 teams, you might consider splitting the league into two separate leagues.
Above All, Make It Fun
The key to any successful fantasy football league is making it fun for everyone. Having too few or too many owners present some unique challenges, but if you can keep it fun for everyone, the size of your league isn't very important. Check out our other commissioner articles for more ideas on how to keep your league interesting for everyone.
Creating a League Constitution
Having a written constitution is a critical piece to running a successful fantasy football league, especially any league where owners are putting up their own money. While this probably seems like overkill to some people, you can be assured that if you play in a league long enough, something always comes up that tests the rules of the league as a whole. A well written constitution can save you life in combat, or at least provide objective guidance toward an overall resolution. This article will go over much of the process, and provide suggestions on how to build your league constitution as painlessly as possible.
Some folks will cringe at having to write up the league rules, while others might view it as an opportunity to create a 42-page treatise detailing out every possible situation. While detail is important, it's also important to focus more on the overall intent and less on the specific language. Try not to spend too much time finding the exact wording for every paragraph. Think hard about what you are trying to say and then just say it. This document won't be passed out in a court of law, and it won't be proof-read by your eighth-grade English teacher.
Circulation is important. While you don't need to have people sign a waiver, it's important that everyone reads the constitution and has easy access to it. If you can, circulate a copy of it before draft night and encourage people to have read it before things start. If there are any changes from year to year, create a quick summary sheet and reference the appropriate articles that have changed. This way guys can read the summary, and if they want the full details, they can open up the constitution. If your league software has a section for you to cut and past information, consider posting this information there as well. Anything that makes it easy for folks to read and see the rules is a good thing.
Numbered sections and sub-sections are a good idea and will make it easy to find information if there is a question. There is no magic formula to doing this, but more sections are usually better. In the sample below, we'll highlight some key main sections and add in a basic numbering structure to make finding things easy. Avoid page or year references if possible as those can change as rules are added or dropped from year to year. A table of contents can also help if your constitution is long.
Below you will find a sample constitution with comments on every section. The numbering and sections are only a suggestion. Feel free to change or modify any of this to fit your own league.
[1.0 LEAGUE OVERVIEW]
Welcome to GFFL, the Generic Fantasy Football League. This is a 12-team league that was formed in 2013 by a group of owners who all live in South Park, Colorado. This league is considered a money league, and all owners are expected to pay their league fee before the draft begins. This league is designed to be a competition between owners, but it not a cut-throat league where anything goes. The rules described below are designed to act a a guideline for overall league play, and any disputes will be handled by the executive committee of the league. Please remember that the overall goal of this league is to have fun and enjoy the game of football. If you have any question or concerns, please do not hesitate to ask.
Comments: Simple and to the point. It lets folks know what the league is all about, and where you got your start. If you have a unique name to your league or your divisions, you should detail that out here as well. New owners coming into the league may not understand all of the references and comments that people make and a good league overview is a nice 'welcome to the league'.
[1.1 Executive Committee]
The executive committee for GFFL for 2015 consists of:
- Commissioner Stan Marsh (123) 456-7890 [home] (123) 456-7890 [cell] firstname.lastname@example.org
- Co-Commissioner Kyle Broflovski (123) 456-7890 [home] (123) 456-7890 [cell] email@example.com
- Co-Commissioner Eric Cartman (123) 456-7890 [home] (123) 456-7890 [cell] firstname.lastname@example.org
The executive committee will be responsible for resolving all disputes that are not expressly covered by this constitution. If a committee member is involved in the dispute, that member will excuse themselves from the decision process. While all owners are encouraged to submit suggestions to the committee, the committee's decision on all matters is final.
Comments: Your constitution won't cover everything. There are too many variables and something always comes up. Get two owners from the league to help you with these decisions unless you want to go it alone. List as many forms of communication as possible, including home and work phone numbers if possible. While the committee has power, do not let it go to your heads. Remember the goal is to have fun. Depending on your preference, co-commissioners do not need to be elected, and can change from year to year.
[1.2 Living Constitution]
It is important to note that this is a living, breathing constitution that will change and evolve over the lifetime of this league. Changes will happen between seasons as often as possible and will be effective from that point moving forward. If you have suggestions for changes, please submit them to one of the executive committee members.
Comments: We talk about how to implement league changes in the Changing Things Up section of the Commissioner Series. See those articles for more details. The key here is to let folks know that this document is not inclusive and may change from year to year.
[2.0 LEAGUE FINANCING]
The league fee for GFFL will be charged to each team owner and committee member, payable to the commissioner on or before the night of the draft. If a team owner does not have the appropriate entry fee, the executive committee may make other arrangements for payment before the season starts at their discretion.
[2.1 League Fee]
The GFFL league fee for the 2015 season will be $68.50 from each owner. This fee consists of $50 entry fee plus $18.50 from each owner to cover the cost of the league scoring software and room rental for draft night. This fee is due on or before the draft. Also, all trades and waiver wire transactions will cost each owner an additional $5.00 per transaction, due once the playoffs are complete. Owners who do not pay their transaction fee will have their balance deducted from any prize money that they win and will be forced to pay any outstanding balance before the start of the following season or they will not be invited back.
Comments: You are strongly encouraged to make sure everyone pays their entry fee before the night of the draft. If you have a league software expense, consider including that on top of the league fee as described above, or detail out that each owner will pay a portion of the cost before any prize money is given. NEVER put up the money yourself, and if owners do not pay, make sure to deduce their portion from the prize money accordingly.
[2.2 Prize Money]
League prize money will be paid out within seven days of the completion of the GFFL Super Bowl. Money will be held in a bank account owned by all three members of the executive committee and will be paid out in the following manner:
- League Champion receives $500 + 75% of all transaction fees collected
- League Runner-Up received $200 + 20% of all transaction fees collected
- League Scoring Champion receives $50 + 5% of all transaction fees collected
Comments: This will obviously be based on your league payout system. It's important to list out all payouts. An owner should be able to add up all the fees from section 2.1 and see all of the payout in section 2.2. If you collect a fee for running your league, list it as part of the prize money as well. Owners should have one place to go to see who is paid what at the end of the season. If you league goes not collect fees or pay prize money, you can skip section 2.
[3.0 LEAGUE SETUP AND COMPETITION]
The GFFL will consist of 12 different teams, broken into two conferences of six teams each. Each conference will be broken into two divisions of three teams each. The schedule will be randomly generated, with each team playing every other team at least once in head-to-head match-up. Teams will also play their division opponents an additional time for a 13-game regular season.
Comments: Obviously this is determined by how your league is broken out and your schedule. If your playoff system is based on division winners, you should have at least two head-to-head games against everyone in your division to give everyone a fair chance.
[3.1 Division Rankings]
Teams will be ranked within each division based on the following criteria:
- Overall Winning Percentage
- Division Winning Percentage
- Head-to-head Winning Percentage
- Total Points Scored by the Starters - Year to Date
- Total Points Scored by Head-to-head Opponents - Year to Date
Comments: Use winning percentage as the benchmark. If you use total wins, a tie can throw off the ranking. Again, you can adjust this to match your league rules.
After the completion of the regular season, three teams from each conference will make the playoffs. All division winners will be awarded a playoff spot and the highest ranking non-division winner from each conference will be awarded a wildcard spot. In Week 14, each conference wildcard team will play the lower ranking division winner, and the higher division ranking winner will get a bye. The winners from Week 14 will play the higher division ranking winner for the conference championship in Week 15. The winner of each conference championship will play each other in the GFFL Super Bowl during Week 16 of the NFL.
Comments: It is never a good idea to have your Super Bowl in Week 17 because NFL teams may sit their star players. Adjust your playoff schedule based on what works best for your league. Conference runner-ups can also play during the Super Bowl if you want to award a prize for third place.
You can also work out a playoff bracket for the non-playoff teams to keep everyone interested in every game.
[4.0 ROSTERS AND LINEUPS]
Rosters in GFFL consist of 22 active players from any NFL team. There are no position limits, and owners are free to have as many players from any position as they like. Only players from the active roster may be used as part of a team's starting lineup.
Comments: In keeper or dynasty leagues, you may also want to add a section about injured reserve or taxi squad where owners may designate players who are not active, but still available for protection for next season.
[4.1 The Draft]
The commissioner will designate a draft night each season. Owners are expected to attend the draft in person, and must have all league fees paid before the draft. The draft order will be determined by a random draw. Owners will pick numbers (No. 1 through No. 12) out of a hat, and the number will correspond with their draft position in the first round. The draft will be a serpentine order, where the person with the first pick in Round 1 will have the last pick in Round 2 and the first pick in Round 3. When it is the owner's turn to draft, they will have two minutes to make their pick. The commissioner will designate a timekeeper and when the timer expires, the next owner may make their selection. The skipped owner will then have another 30 seconds to make their pick, or the next owner will be on the clock.
Comments: This section should be a little more detailed than previous sections. The draft is the single most important night of the season and if you penalize people or have a draft timer, it should be clearly spelled out here. If you have an internet league where the draft is a over several days, you need to be specific about what will happen if an owner takes too long to pick. Give an example, if necessary, but owners need to know exactly how the draft will be run. Owners do some crazy things at times, and one rogue owner can derail the entire draft.
[4.2 Free Agency]
Free agency will be conducted on a first come, first served basis. Owners may add or drop up to four players from their active rosters each week, starting on Tuesday evening at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Each time an owner adds or drops a player, their team will be assessed a $5.00 transaction fee. This will be distributed at the end of the season as detailed in the Prize Money section of this constitution. For accounting purposes, the fee will be charged each time a team drops a player. If an owner drops a player one week, then adds a player the next, they will only be charged one transaction fee. If they drop a player but do not add a replacement, they will still be charged a transaction fee.
Comments: Modify this section as needed for your league.
Trading is allowed and encouraged in GFFL, and may be conducted between any owner. Trades may include multiple players from any position, as well as draft picks. Trades must include the same number of players or draft picks from each side to avoid any roster limit conflicts. Each owner will be charged a $5.00 for a trade ($10 total) and it will be added to the transaction pool for distribution as described in the prize money section. Owners may not make trades during any given week once the first NFL game has been played. Owners are free to trade once the final NFL game of the week is complete. No trades will be allowed after Week 12 of the fantasy football season.
Comments: You can modify this section as needed if you want to allow unbalanced trades or trades after an NFL game is played. If you allow unbalanced trades (two players for one player), you'll need to include a provision to prevent people from exceeding the roster limit. You should always have a trade deadline to avoid roster stuffing at the end of the season.
[4.3.1 Trade Veto]
The executive committee reserves the right to reverse any trade that they deem inconsistent with league competition and fair-play standards. This veto will only be invoked in extreme cases where it is obvious that one owner is trying to give another owner an unfair advantage. The owners in question may offer reasons why the trade should be allowed, but the decision of the executive committee is final once it has been rendered. If the trade involves a committee member, they may offer reasons for the trade to be allowed will not have a say in the final committee decision.
Comments: This rule is tricky, but needs to be in place, especially in money leagues. Commissioners need a way to overrule a trade that is clearly designed to give someone an advantage to avoid collusion. However, it should not be used to protect an owner from a bad decision. DO NOT allow league owners to vote on if a trade can be revoked or not. This will cause exponentially more harm than good. There is a reason the executive committee is in place, and they should have the power and responsibility to make this decision. This rule needs to be in place but should almost never be used.
[4.4 Starting Lineups]
Starting lineups in GFFL will consist as follows:
- 1 quarterback
- 2 running backs
- 2 wide receivers
- 1 tight end
- 1 flex (running back, wide receiver, or tight end)
- 1 place kicker
- 1 defense / special teams
Owners must submit their starting lineup each week, even if the lineup does not change from the previous week. Players may be added or removed from the starting lineup up until the start of the first NFL game. On weeks where the NFL has a Thursday game, owners may make changes to their lineups up to the start of the second NFL game, but may not change a player that has already played. For example, If you started your quarterback on Thursday night and he has a bad game, you cannot switch him out for a quarterback who has not played. Also, if you did not start a wide receiver who played on Thursday night and he scored three touchdowns, you cannot add him to your lineup on Friday. Once the Thursday game begins, players from that game may not be started or benched.
Comments: You may want to lock lineups after the Thursday game or allow substitutions mid-day on Sunday as well. Examples work best when trying to implement more complex lineup rules. The most important thing to stress is that owners should not be allowed to do anything with players that have already played in an NFL game.
[4.4.1 Position Designations]
From time to time, the NFL may change their designation of a particular player from one position to another or a player may line up in multiple positions throughout the game. For example, a wide receiver may be switched to a tight end and vice versa. For the purposes of GFFL, a player may have only one official designation; any disputed designations will be resolved by the executive committee, using the official distinctions on NFL.com as a guide. Players may only start and score points based on their GFFL distinction. See the League Scoring section for more details.
Comments: Players move around and sometimes even switch from offense to defense. You need a provision like this, especially in IDP leagues to avoid the "Can I start my quarterback as a running back since he runs more than he throws?" or "Can I start my linebacker as a running back because he comes in to block in goal line situations?" If you specify that a player may only have one league distinction, then they can only score points based on that distinction and you avoid any scoring madness from week to week. See below for more details.
[4.5 Bye-week Penalties]
Any owner who starts a player that is on a bye week, regardless of intention, the owner will be fined a $5.00 transaction fee and be forced to drop that player from their active roster. The penalty will be added to the transaction pot and distributed with that money at the end of the season. The player will become a free agent and will be eligible to be added to any roster, including the original owner, during the normal free agent policy. It is each owner's responsibility to submit a valid lineup each week and no exceptions will be made.
Comments: You can add or remove this clause, depending on how you want to run your league. If some other penalty is appropriate or the fine is charged in a different way, spell it out in this section. You may also penalize an owner if they start a player who is officially listed as "Out" on the NFL injury report or a player that has been placed on injured reserve. A clause like this will keep owners engaged from week to week. With a clause like this, you can expect that owners will make sure they will log in each week to submit their lineup.
[4.6 Active Ownership Requirements]
Each owner is expected to actively manager their team each week, even if they are eliminated from any playoff consideration. Owners must submit a lineup each week, or be fined a $5.00 transaction fee, even if their lineup is the same as the previous week. Owners who do not submit a lineup by the start of the first Sunday NFL game will carry-over the previous week's lineup and will not be allowed to change it. Any additional penalties for starting a bye-week or injured player will also be assessed to a lineup that have been carried over. If an owner does not submit a lineup for two consecutive weeks, the executive committee will have the right to assume control of the team and manage it for the rest of the season. A committee run team will be exempt from any transaction fees, but the team may not make any trades and is only allowed to add or drop players if the team cannot field a legal starting lineup due to injury or bye weeks. Any prize money won by a committee-run team will be distributed evenly to the other active owners in the league.
Comments: Your constitution needs to contain a provision that allows the commissioner or a committee to take over an inactive owner's team. Things happen over the course of a fantasy season. In some cases, owners move, are hospitalized or simply drop out of the league completely. Your constitution should provide a method for someone else to step in and take over to avoid the imbalance of an unmanaged team giving owners an easy win late in the season.
[4.7 Anti-Tanking Provision]
GFFL is a competitive league, created for the league owners to have fun playing fantasy football. While the competition may be fierce, this is not considered a cut-throat league. In the spirit of competition and league fairness, owners are not allowed to intentionally create a legal starting lineup that gives the opposing team a clear advantage. The executive committee reserves the right to step in and adjust the starting lineup of a team that is clearly trying to intentionally lose a game. Owners will be assessed a $5.00 transaction penalty that will be included in the free agent / trade transaction prize money distributed at the end of the season. If the committee must adjust a team's lineup in two consecutive weeks or for three or more weeks in any one season, the team will be considered inactive and the executive committee may assume ownership of the team as detailed in the active ownership requirements section.
Comments: Harsh but necessary. While you hope that you never have to use this rule, it must be in place to prevent one owner from screwing up an entire season. As with the trade veto section, this rule should be used only in extreme cases.
[5.0 SCORING SYSTEM]
Scoring in GFFL will be computed to two decimal places. This will allow points to be awarded or deducted for every positive or negative yard and will dramatically reduce the chance of a tie game. Players are awarded fantasy points for each week that they are included in the team's starting lineup. Players may only start at one position in any given week and will only be awarded points as described by their position distinction below.
QB / RB / WR / TE Scoring
- 0.1 points for every rushing yard (-0.1 points for each negative rushing yard)
- 0.1 points for every receiving yard (-0.1 points for each negative receiving yard)
- 0.05 points for every passing yard (-0.05 points for each negative passing yard)
- 6.0 points for each touchdown scored (rushing, receiving, passing, fumble recovery, or kick return)
- 1.0 points for every 2-point conversion pass
- 2.0 points for every 2-point conversion run or reception
- -2.0 points for every interception thrown
- -1.0 points for every fumble that is recovered by their own team
- -2.0 points for every fumble that is recovered by the other team (lost)
- 1.0 points for every extra point made
- 3.0 points for every field goal made
- 0.1 points for every yard a field goal is beyond 30 (ex: 35 yard field goal will receive .5 additional points)
- -1.0 points for every missed extra point
- -2.0 points for every missed field goal
Comments: By breaking out place kickers from other positions, you designate different scoring rules for that section. So if a kicker runs in a touchdown, they will not score any points for the run or the touchdown. If you want to add that option, you should spell it out here. This type of position break down isn't needed as much in standard leagues, but can really help in leagues that start individual defensive players and have players that may play both sides of the ball. A linebacker that comes in on offense would not get a rushing or receiving touchdown unless it was specifically broken out, and wide receivers who are on special teams would not get additional points for return yardage or touchdowns unless specified in this section. If you want players to score points in any way possible, simply designate that all positions score points in the same manner - this way if a kicker throws a touchdown pass on a trick play or a special teams wide receiver makes recovers a fumble, they always get the points.
Defense / Special Teams Scoring
- 2.0 points for every interception and fumble recovery
- 2.0 points for every sack recorded
- 2.0 points for every safety recorded
- 6.0 points for each touchdown scored (fumble recovery or kick return)
[5.1 Point Totals and Final Scores]
GFFL will be hosted on MyFantasyLeague.com. Head to head scoring will be determined each week by the stats from that website. From time to time, the NFL may go back and change the scoring of certain plays later in the week. MyFantasyLeague.com gives the commissioner the option to make these scores retroactive. However, to maintain a sense of fairness and avoid confusion in the league, all head-to-head scoring will be resolved as of Tuesday at noon Eastern. Any scoring changes that come out from the NFL after that time will not be applied to the league.
Comments: The NFL will never change the final score of a game with a scoring update, but fantasy football can have that happen. A few extra yards or a fumble recovery may actually change the outcome of a game. To avoid confusion, you should draw a line at some point before free agency starts each week where all fantasy football scoring from the previous week is final.
[6.0 OFFSEASON ACTIVITIES]
Owners are strongly encouraged to maintain their current contact information as part of the league software. Please make sure to include your name, phone number and email address in the event that we need to reach you during the off season. You should expect to be contacted in July with information about next year's draft. Thanks and welcome to GFFL!
Note: You can add additional rules or twists to the league as you see fit. This constitution should only be a guide to help you get started.
Implementing Scoring Changes
For commissioners who have run a successful league for a couple years, you may be looking to make a few changes to keep things fresh and new. By now you know the owners in your league and you have a pretty good idea of what they like and dislike. Changing your league can be a great way to improve the overall experience and keep everyone interested and engaged. Changes can take a couple different forms. This article will focus on how to change your scoring rules.
WHEN AND HOW TO IMPLEMENT SCORING CHANGES
Changing or adding rules to your fantasy league is a straight forward process, but there are a few general things you should think about when you do. For starters, think about the goal of making the rule change. Is it to provide more flexibility for owners, or create more scoring opportunities? Do you want to improve the performance of a particular position, or create a more balanced scoring system? Whatever your reason, make sure that it improves the league overall. Implementing rules that only benefit two teams may actually hurt your league rather than help it. You should always consider the good of the league before making any changes.
Always make sure to implement a rule change between seasons. Unless it is an immediate need that will really hurt a majority of the owners if it doesn't happen, it is better to wait until the offseason when everyone is on the same footing. Owners build their teams each year with different strategies in mind. Some draft starters and backups while others play the waiver wire fast and often. Some target specific players because of bye weeks and others draft players from their favorite division. Whatever the case, implementing a rule change mid-season is going to impact someone in a way that they were not expecting when the season began. Even if you think it will impact everyone the same way, do not implement it until after the playoffs. Your standard position should be "This is how the rules were when we started the season." Owners might complain, but they can't say it was unfair or that they didn't know.
Scoring rule changes don't always need a consensus. Ultimately you're the commissioner and you make the rules. You can get input from the league or ask for suggestions, but it will be very difficult to get everyone to agree on every new rule. This is another reason to implement a rule change during the offseason - if someone doesn't like the rule, they have time to adjust or in an extreme case, they can drop out and you can find a replacement. That's not going to happen 99.9% of the time if you are implementing changes for the good of the whole league during the offseason. If you choose to let the league vote on new rules, as commissioner you should abstain unless there is a tie.
DIFFERENT SCORING IDEAS
Here are a couple ideas on how to enhance the scoring system and the general impact that they will have on the league:
If you run a touchdown-only league, changing to performance scoring is a great way to reward actual player production. If a running back breaks off an 89-yard run but is tackled an inch from the goal line, the running back receives no points in a standard touchdown-only league. If the team's quarterback then noses the football for a touchdown, the quarterback gets full credit for the score. To reward the running back as well as the quarterback, you could implement a performance scoring system. This rewards players for every yard that they gain either rushing, receiving, or passing. Typical numbers are 1 point per every 10 yards rush/receiving and 1 point for every 20 or 25 yards passing. Many fantasy owners consider this to be a more accurate reflection of how the game unfolds, but league's final scores won't be 24-18 anymore either. If you are going this route, you should consider the next rule change as well.
No one likes a tie in fantasy football, and basic touchdown-only leagues can sometimes end in a tie. Even in performance scoring leagues that round or truncate their performance, you're going to have a few ties. Implementing a two-decimal scoring system will dramatically reduce the chances of a tie, and it also takes another step to really reflecting what each player's performance really is. In this case, every positive yard rushing or receiving would be with 0.1 and every positive yard passing would be worth 0.05 or 0.04.
Some leagues award bonus points for long field goals. Under a performance scoring system, you can add in the bonus based on distance more precisely. With two decimal scoring, it is even easier. A typical idea is to award 3.0 points for any field goal of 1-30 yards and then at 0.1 for every yard after that. For example: A 42-yard field goal would be worth 3.0 + 1.2 or 4.2 points.
Point Per Reception and Variants
In many leagues, quarterbacks and running backs are the most valuable players. You can improve the value of wide receivers and tight ends though by awarding a point for every reception that a player has. This rewards players who catch a lot of passes and can make possession receivers and third-down backs more valuable to your league. If you adopt two decimal scoring, you could also implement a variant that would give running backs 0.5 points for a reception and 1.5 points to tight ends. This reduces the lift that pass-catching running backs will have, but will reward pass-catching tight ends who act more like wide receivers in places like New England, Dallas, and New Orleans.
Team Defense Performance
It is hard enough to try and predict when a team defense or special teams will score a touchdown. To more accurately reflect a team defense performance, you could add in points based on how well a team defense performs in holding the opposing offense in check. Usually these points are awarded on a sliding scale such as 10 points for a shutout, 8 points for allowing seven or less, 6 for allowing 14 or less and so on. You can also award points for yards allowed such as 10 points for less than 100 passing and rushing yards, 8 points for 100-200, and so on. If you choose to award points for yards allowed, make sure to specifically exclude (or include if you like) return yards and sack yards.
There are a lot of different ways to award points for performance including points for rushing attempts, points for pass attempts and completions, and special teams points for tackles and return yards. Some leagues deduct points for things like fumbles and fumbles lost, interceptions, and missed extra points. In team defense performance leagues, you could also deduct points for giving up 30 or more points or 400 or more yards as well.
Test Drive Before You Buy
Many league management software packages like Yahoo.com or MyFantasyLeague.com will allow you to set up and configure your league for free. If you want to see how a new scoring rule will impact a league, simply set up a mock league and input your current scoring system. Then add in your proposed scoring changes one rule at a time and see how that impacts the overall player performances. Pay particular attention to the performance of a typical starting player. In a 12-team league, you should look at the Top 12 quarterbacks, the Top 24 running backs, the Top 24-36 wide receivers, and the Top 12 tight ends, defenses, and place kickers. Spend some time playing around with each proposed rule change will help you avoid making a change that might skew too strongly toward one position or another and unbalance the next season until you can adjust it again.
BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
Once you've settled on your new scoring changes, make sure to update your league constitution. You may want to create a one-page summary sheet of the rules that you implemented so that everyone has one place to go for the new rules. Try to circulate the changes a week or two before the draft begins, so that owners have a chance to review the rules and create a draft strategy.
If you hold a league draft night, make sure to bring extra copies of the new changes to the draft and pass one out to every owner. You'll always get one or two guys who didn't read the email or didn't see the notice and half way through the draft will say something like "Hey, how come everyone is drafting a tight end so early? Did something change?" By circulating things early, you eliminate owners claiming "I didn't know" and prevent any issues that might come up.
Evaluate the impact of your changes after the season is over. Did your scoring changes make running backs too powerful? Did one or two owners figure out a loop-hole and exploit it to the detriment of the rest of the league? If so, look at making improvements for next season. You can always remove the rule during the offseason if you think it hurt the league too much.
Finally, put some thought into making scoring changes, but don't go overboard or obsess on making the perfect rule. Fantasy Football is ultimately about having fun, and if you keep that in mind, everything will work out. There will always be one or two owners who complain that they don't like the new format or wish things were the way that they were last season. That's okay. They may just be throwing rocks because they can. Be happy with the changes that you've made. If you make a mistake, admit it, and change it for next season. As long as people are having fun, the rest will work itself out.
Possible Rule Twists
Running a successful league is as much about experience as anything else. Over the course of a season, owners develop patterns of behavior and interactions. Owners find gaps in the rules or figure out how to beat the system and use it to their advantage. That's okay as long as it doesn't harm the league overall. As a commissioner, it's your job to recognize these things and try to implement rules to prevent it next season. In some cases, everything will be great, and you may just be looking to shake things up a bit. Either way, a couple rule changes/additions may be exactly what you need. This article will focus on how to implement general league changes, regardless of your format.
WHEN AND HOW TO IMPLEMENT
Changing or adding rules to your fantasy league is a straight forward process, but there are a few general things you should think about before making changes. For starters, think about the goal of making the rule change. Are you looking to stop a particular behavior by certain owners, or is your goal to create a more balanced league where everyone can win? Maybe you're looking to encourage more trades in your league, or create more waiver wire opportunities. Whatever your reason, make sure that it improves the league overall. Implementing rules that only benefit two teams may actually hurt your league rather than help it. You should always consider the good of the league before making any changes.
Always make sure to implement a rule change between seasons. Unless someone is clearly pulling a shot and you need to close a loop hole, it is better to wait until the offseason when everyone is on the same footing. Owners build their teams each year with different strategies in mind. Some draft starters and backups while others play the waiver wire fast and often. Some target specific players because of bye weeks and others draft players from their favorite division. Whatever the case, implementing a rule change mid-season is going to impact someone in a way that they were not expecting when the season began. Even if you think it will impact everyone the same way, do not implement it until after the playoffs. Your standard position should be "This is how the rules were when we started the season." Owners might complain, but they can't say it was unfair or that they didn't know.
League rule changes don't always need a consensus, but unlike scoring rules, these type of changes may impact different owners in different ways. Often, league owners will suggest these type of changes based on certain things that other owners are doing. Ultimately you are the commissioner, and it's your job to decide what is needed and what is not. Owners will always complain, especially if they are losing a lot. That doesn't mean you need to implement 10 new rules to keep them happy. In any case, you won't be able to keep every owner happy with every rule. This is another reason to implement a rule change during the offseason – if someone doesn't like the rule, they have time to adjust or in an extreme case, they can drop out and you can find a replacement. That's not going to happen 99.9% of the time if you are implementing changes for the good of the league during the offseason. If you choose to let the league vote on new rules, as commissioner you should abstain unless there is a tie.
GENERAL LEAGUE CHANGES
There are a variety of rules that you can implement in your league that carry some specific purposes. The ideas listed below range from almost standard to very exotic, depending on the goal of the rule.
Rosters and Positions
- Lineup Changes - In smaller leagues, you might want to expand your lineups to include more players at different positions. Some leagues require two starting quarterbacks or tight ends, while others expand to three or four wide receivers. Some allow for one or two flex positions where a running back, wide receiver, or tight end can be inserted, depending on what the owner wants. Some leagues allow specific formations such as two running backs, two wide receivers, and one tight end or one running back and four wide receivers. In general, the bigger the lineup, the more flexibility each owner has to field a starting lineup. As with scoring changes though, make sure to test how an expanded lineup will play out. Allowing two flex positions might give owners the option to start four running backs each week. Make sure to keep the overall league balance in mind. Allowing for flexible lineups can also help in larger leagues where it might be more difficult to field starter-quality players at all positions each week. Allowing guys to start a third or fourth receiver in place of a back can keep a team competitive during those bye weeks where you might lose a stud or two from your regular lineup. Finally, if you expand the starting lineup, also consider:
- Roster Changes - Expanding the roster will allow owners to draft more players, keeping them on the bench and out of the starting lineup of their opponents. It also allows an owner to protect their starters in case of an injury. With larger rosters, you will see more competitive moves like one owner taking the backup quarterback from his division rival, leaving him vulnerable if the starter goes down to injury. Larger rosters also favor the knowledgeable fantasy players, because they can fill their roster slots with sleeper picks in the hope that they will break out as the season wears on. Guys who know the rookies inside and out can load up on these plays and be miles ahead of the guys who just pick up a magazine on the day of the draft. However, also remember that having larger rosters means a smaller free agent pool. This hurts the weaker teams or the teams struck by serious injuries because they don't have many options to recover. Deeper rosters also mean a longer draft. It may be cool to say your 12-team league has a 30-man roster, but when your draft hits the five-hour mark and guys don't care about who to take in the 26th round, you run the risk of ruining the best single night of the season.
- Roster Position Limits - In general, it's better to let owners build their teams however they want. If one guy thinks that drafting five quarterbacks is the key victory, let him do it and see how it plays out. However, in some cases a position limit may make sense. In a bigger league with deeper rosters, an owner can screw up your season by drafting a bunch of guys from the same position. In most cases, this strategy fails but if an owner insists on doing this year after year, a position limit might be needed. In leagues that allow a flex position or two, guys may load up on four or five running backs early and dominate the league based on their flex. Keeper leagues may have protection limits by position to prevent guys from carrying forward four stud running backs year after year. Approach these type of limits with caution. In most cases, if the strategy is weak, the owner won't use it the following season and if the strategy creates a dominant team, the other teams in the league adjust the following season to give themselves the same advantage. If normal year over year play doesn't correct these situations, a position limit may be needed.
Drafting and Free Agency
- Straight Draft - In redraft leagues this doesn't make as much sense, but in leagues that allow owners to carry forward players from last year, the stronger teams create a huge advantage by keeping the top players from ever getting back into the draft pool. You can restore balance to the league by implementing a straight draft based on where teams finish from the previous season. The teams that win it all usually have the strongest players, and can carry them forward to next season. By making them draft near the bottom of every round, it gives the weaker teams a chance to shake off a bad season and be competitive in a shorter time period. Straight drafts will slow down your drafting time though, because you'll lose the speed you typically pick on on the ends of a serpentine draft when guys have two picks very close together.
- Third Round Reversal [3RR] - I won't go into the specifics of it here, but many experts believe that having one of the top three picks in a redraft league creates such an advantage, that even a normal serpentine draft (first pick in round one gets last pick in round two), the top picks still have an advantage because of the back to back picks at the end of round two and the beginning of round three. By reversing the third round draft order to match the second round draft order, you further reduce this advantage. In a 12-team league, the team with the first pick in the first round normally has pick 1.01, 2.12, 3.01, 4.12, 5.01 and so on. In a 3RR draft, the team with the first pick in the first round has pick 1.01, 2.12, 3.12, 4.01, 5.12 and so on. The normal serpentine draft will reverse in the third round and then continue as normal from that point forward.
- Select Your Own Slot - From year to year, owners develop a sense of where they are most comfortable drafting. Some guys like the power that a top three pick gives them. Others like to draft on the turn because they like building a team based on the best available players and can start and kill trends with back to back picks. Select your own works the same as a normal draft league, but owners get to pick where they want to draft based on the number that they draw and the positions that are left. Instead of automatically getting No. 1 overall, the guy who draws the first selection can decide to pick ninth (or any other spot) if he wants and so on until the last guy gets whatever draft position is left.
- Power Based vs. FCFS Free Agency - Many leagues have a power-based free agency, meaning the weaker teams get first crack at the free agent pool each week while the power teams need to wait for their turn. This approach sacrifices fairness in favor of league balance and competitiveness. Most league software will allow you to set up a custom waiver wire order based on various things, including overall winning percentage and division winning percentage, so this will help with a power based waiver wire priority. Other leagues have a first-come, first-served (FCFS) free agency, where free agency begins at a certain time (usually Tuesday morning) and whoever gets there first gets who they want. The FCFS approach requires minimal involvement from the commissioner and gives the most flexibility to the league. If you choose to go FCFS though, make sure to disable it during the games and on Sunday after the first game starts. Only a couple owners will watch the NFL with their computer handy, and it's best to let injured players be evaluated by the team doctor before making a final determination on if you want to pick up their backup or not. A Tuesday morning waiver wire start is probably the earliest you would want. A nice way to balance power based, and FCFS waivers is to create a blended approach. Have one or two rounds of free agency drafting on Tuesday based on your power ranking then open up the league to FCFS free agency. This way, the weaker teams still get their first crack at the hot waiver wire pickup, and then owners can add and drop players as they like until game time.
- Auction / Blind Bidding Free Agency - Another way to run free agency is to allow for blind bidding on free agents. In this model, every team is given a waiver wire cap, and they must bid on each free agent that they wish to acquire. Blind bidding puts everyone on the same page because you can bid as much of your cap as you like to acquire any player. Once your cap is spent, you can't pick up any more free agents, so owners need to manage their cap throughout the season. Again, most league software systems allow for this type of process. You can also do a blended model where the blind bidding happens on Tuesday and Wednesday and FCFS after that to help those guys who forget that they have a bye for their tight end and need a backup. One final note on blind bidding units: to allow even more flexibility, consider them as team property and allow them to be traded for draft picks, players or whatever the two owners can work out. Teams that use all of their cap to bid on a free agent might have to trade a player or picks to get more cap money to make a playoff run.
- Weekly Free Agency Cap - On the one hand, if your league charges a transaction fee, you probably don't want to cap the free agency moves because it just adds more money to the pot. However, you may have a couple owners who abuse the system by adding and dropping players at multiple times during the week. This creates havoc with other owners and can lead to a cascade of adds and drops, depending on which players were targeted in a given week. You can limit this churn by putting a cap on the number of free agent moves an owner can make each week. Limiting them to two or three moves is probably best. When you start dropping four or more players a week, you're looking changing almost 25% of your roster in one week. Owners who reach their weekly limit can still make trades and should still be penalized for not having a full starting lineup if they don't have one by Sunday.
Competition and Tanking
Every league wants to be competitive. However as the season wears on, especially when there is money involved, some owners who feel that they can't compete just check out and stop submitting a lineup or purposely start weak or injured players to skew the league. Here are a couple rules to keep people interested and discourse people losing on purpose or not paying attention.
- Bye-week Start - This happens a lot. Owners forget to submit a lineup or are not paying attention and miss that their kicker is on a bye this week. Many leagues, especially those that are for money, have a penalty for the team owner who starts a player on a bye. Penalties can range from fines to losing a roster spot for the season to losing draft picks for next year, depending on how harsh you want to be. One idea would be to create a rule where any player who was started on a bye was immediately cut from their roster and put back into the free agency pool for anyone to bid on. Rules like this show owners that they need to pay attention and keep everyone engaged during the bye weeks. You never want a guy to win the division or make the playoffs because his opponent started a player on a bye, even if it was an accident.
- Penalties for Losing - This one is a little tricky, because some guys just have a bad draft. However, if you want to encourage strong participation, implement some type of penalty for losing a game. A variety of gag penalties can be handed out on draft night for the team that finished last including a trophy, T-shirt, or constant mention as the league's worst team. Other ideas include a progressive tax for each loss, charging the owner $1 for their first loss, $2 for their second, $5 for their third and so on. Guys will work like crazy to avoid paying $10 for their fourth loss. You could also just fine the team with the lowest points scored each week a flat fee just like you would a waiver wire transaction.
- Weekly Top Score Prize - In money leagues, one way to keep everyone fighting to the very end is to give a small monetary prize to the team that scores the most points in a given week. Even a team that is 1-7 will keep playing the waiver wire with the hope that they might get something back if they can cobble together a good week. Be careful with this one though, as it often just turns into another way to reward the top teams in the league.
- Mandatory Check-in / League Controlled Teams. This one is harsh, but if you league doesn't have a mechanism to take over for an absent owner, you need to add it before the start of the next season. Owners stop playing in the middle of the season for a variety of reasons. People wind up in the hospital. In some cases, owners even pass away. You hate to throw gasoline on a fire, but if that guy's team turns into an easy win for the rest of the league, it just makes matters worse. League constitutions should have a provision for owners to check in by submitting a lineup each week or every two weeks. Even if it's the same lineup, an owner should still submit it each week. Any owner that goes three weeks without submitting a lineup should open their team up to league control. The Commissioner or another owner should step in and automatically submit the highest scoring player at each position that is not injured or on a bye week. If the team can't field a legal lineup due to injuries or bye weeks, then proxy owner should cut the least valuable player on the team to fill in the necessary roster slots. The rule should be specific enough so that anyone in the league could run the team or know instantly what roster moves and starting lineup should be made. This way, if an owner leaves the league for any reason, the league as a whole doesn't suffer.
Other League Twists
Here are some outside-the-box type of ideas. These are not for everyone, but they can give you some ideas on how to make things interesting.
- Attrition Leagues - In highly competitive leagues, owners can adopt some crazy things. These rules may not be for everyone. I've read about leagues that force the lowest scoring team each week to drop a roster spot and the player associated with it. Another rule included allowing head to head winners to force a trade with their opponent, such as your worst running back for their best wide receiver. Still others award bonus points to the top scoring team the following week, or penalized the lowest scoring team with a point deduction the following week. Any type of rule that would weaken a team for losing or strengthen a team for winning would be included here. These type of leagues really reward the strong teams and you need to make sure everyone knows what they are getting into before they start, especially if they are expected to pay to be in that league.
- Playoff Attrition Draft - A variation of the Attrition League format. When the regular season ends and the playoffs teams are chosen, a mini draft night is held. The teams that made the playoffs have a two round draft, selecting players from the rosters of non-playoff teams as a reward for making the playoffs.You can do this a couple different ways, but the most rewarding (or punishing) would be that the top seeded teams go first and the weaker teams draft at the turn. Think of the strategy that goes into those two rounds! Do you draft the best available player, even if it's not a position of need? Do you draft a player to prevent another team from drafting him? Do you take a guy because he will be facing weak NFL opponents? What players do you drop to make room? Be careful if you implement this though as you could shift the entire dynamics of the playoffs. Be open to making adjustments next season, depending on how it plays out.
- Bonus for the Season - In money leagues, many different rewards can be built in for teams that have the best (or worst) performance of the season. A bonus for the team that scored the most points in any single game of the year, or a bonus to the owner of the team that had the best waiver wire pickup (most point or best average points) are these type of leagues. You can award prizes for the best (and worst trade) based on how the players performed before and after the trade, or the best sleeper pick of the draft (most points relative to draft position).
- Tiered Performance Leagues - If face to face leagues, this doesn't happen often but over the internet, interest in a particular league can spread quickly. When you move beyond 16 owners of a given league, it becomes difficult for owners to be competitive every week. Splitting the leagues into tiers can make things even more interesting. The Pro league starts out as the top scoring teams from the previous season. The Semi-pro league consists of everyone else. The top two or four teams from the Semi-Pro league advance to the Pro league the following season and the lowest scoring Pro teams are sent down to the Semi-Pro league to make room. Each league is considered a separate entity with its own draft and player pool. Ideally the drafts are as close together as possible, but if you can't have a concurrent draft, the lower level league always drafts first.
- League Pro Bowl - One way to really keep every team interested to the very end is to have a league pro bowl after the playoffs are over. One owner from each division or conference must submit a starting lineup based on the players from their division / conference. Each team must submit at least one player, and the designated owner has the final say as to what players start. Other owners can suggest who to start, but the designated owner must be the one to set the final lineup. Whoever wins the game should get a bonus for the entire division or conference. Perhaps a money incentive or an extra player in keeper or dynasty leagues. Something to give the game some meaning to everyone. Owners from every team will have a stake in this final pro bowl, and they'll all be glued to the TV that final week if the payoff is big enough. Try not to schedule it during Week 17 if possible, but if that's the only week available, each team will be under the same constraint.
WRAPPING IT UP
As you can see, there are a variety of different twists that you can put into your league if you are creative enough. We just scratched the surface here, so let your imagination run wild and come up with whatever rules or ideas that you think will make the league more competitive and fun for everyone. A word of caution though: if you use a league software management system, make sure to test if your league supports your new ideas before you implement them. There is nothing worse than suggesting an idea that everyone loves, but you can't use it because Yahoo! doesn't allow it or you have to implement it by hand.
Don't be afraid to try new and interesting things. The worst that can happen is your league doesn't like it and you remove it at the end of the season. As long as you implement it after the playoffs and before the draft, your league owners will have plenty of time to plan and use the new rules.
Discussing League Formats
Changing the format of your league can be a great way to shake things up. After playing with the same group for a season or two, you learn a lot about the league and what everyone wants from it. Sometimes, you may only need to add or change a few rules to keep things interesting. Other times, you may want to completely change the format of a league, and start out fresh with a different approach. This article will focus on large-scale format changes to existing leagues.
WHEN AND HOW TO IMPLEMENT
When you're looking at changing the entire format of your fantasy league, you really need to think about why you want to make this switch. Do you fall in love with certain players and want to have them on your team year after year? Do you hate the randomness of defensive scoring and want to move to a more consistent format with individual defensive players? Do you hate the draft order, and the fact that pulling the wrong number out of a hat will prevent you from having the players that you really want? Whatever your reason, make sure that it improves the league and the overall experience of all of your owners. Implementing a big format change may reduce or eliminate the fun for one or two owners and they may simply drop out rather than stick with the new league. You should always consider the good of the league before making any changes.
For changes of this nature, it goes without saying that you should implement it at the end of the season. If you're switching to a keeper or dynasty format (see below), make sure to reset the draft before making the switch. Owners build their teams each year with different strategies in mind. Some draft starters and backups while others play the waiver wire fast and often. Some target specific players because of bye weeks and others draft players from their favorite division. Whatever the case, if you are changing the format of the league, you need to reset everyone back to zero before starting the new format. These type of changes are really too big to fairly implement in the middle of a season.
League rule changes don't always need a consensus, but unlike scoring rules, these type of changes will dramatically impact every owner in the league. They may not have played in the type of league that you are moving to, or they may feel like they can't compete with other owners and want to drop out. You need to carefully consider how each owner will react when you make these type of changes and be prepared in the event that someone wants to walk away. Your best bet is to have an open, honest discussion with everyone as to why you want to make this shift and if necessary, put it to a vote. Voting can create its own set of issues, but if 90% of the league wants to make a shift, it can reinforce the fact that you're not the only one who wants to move the league in a new direction. If you choose to let the league vote on new rules, as commissioner you should abstain unless there is a tie. Be prepared after the announcement that some owners may say "no thanks," and be okay with that. This is like selling your McDonalds and opening up a Taco Bell. You can't expect that all of your customers like tacos.
MAKING THE SHIFT
This article won't go into a full detailed explanation of each type of league, but it will give you enough information to get you thinking about that format. For more information, you can find individual sections on all of these type of leagues throughout this magazine and at Footballguys.com.
Keeper leagues are for owners that like to keep a small core group of players, but still want the excitement of a full blown draft. Each team is allowed to keep a certain number of players from last season's roster and prevent the players from being part of the initial draft pool. When the draft begins, every team has a few of these players on their roster already. Keeper leagues come in two general setups: everyone keeps the same amount and the player for draft pick format. As you might expect, in the first format, everyone keeps the same number of players – usually two or three players, but there is no hard and fast rule. If you do allow three or more players, you may wish to consider a position limit to prevent guys from carrying forward three or four stud guys from the same position. The player for draft pick format works much like a redraft league, except owners can protect players by 'buying' them with their first few draft picks. An owner would give up their first round draft pick to protect one player, their first and second to protect two players and so on up to the maximum amount. Weaker teams can choose to surrender all of their players and pick from scratch. Early rounds may have only one or two teams picking from the free agent pool, but those weaker teams also get the first crack at the rookie players so they can load up for next season. In keeper leagues, the stronger teams have the advantage because they can protect their stud players year after year.
Dynasty leagues are like keeper leagues on steroids. You hold an initial draft for all teams and then each season you protect a majority of your roster (usually 80% or more). A dynasty league draft consists almost entirely of rookies, and the drafts are usually a straight draft with the weaker teams always going first. In a pure dynasty league, the draft is only rookies and veterans may only be added via free agency. Modified versions can allow a free agency period before and after the draft where teams give up a small portion of their roster and add a few veterans before the draft and finish off their rosters once the rookie draft takes place in their league. Dynasty leagues tend to be active year round, with a lot of activity happening between the NFL playoffs and the NFL draft as teams trade and drop players in preparation for next season. This type of format requires owners who are really committed to the league, and it's important to make sure everyone is on board before making the shift. If an owner drafts a bad team and quits after a season or two of bad management, it may be difficult for a new owner to inherit a dog team and rebuild it.
These leagues require a very serious commitment from their owners, but it combines the thrill of a live auction with the thrill of a draft night. Each team starts out with the same amount of salary cap – say 200 units each. The draft is then replaced with a live auction where owners nominate a player for bidding and every owner in the league openly bids against each other for that player until one owner outbids everyone else. When an owner wins that player, they secure that player on their roster and the bid amount is deducted from their salary cap. Roster limits are not as important in this format as the salary cap works to keep everyone from hoarding all of the good players. The Salary cap is the salary cap, so owners need to remember to save a little money for free agency as well. If an owner has no salary cap, they can't bid on any free agents without cutting someone first.
Salary Contract Leagues
Contract leagues combine the dynasty and auction formats. Owners bid on different players like an auction league, and then retain that player for a certain number of years based on the overall salary cap. Salaries typically increase each season, and once the contract is up, the player goes back into the free agency pool where anyone can bid on them. Trades become more complicated in this format because owners must take into account the quality of the player, their salary cap, and the number of years left on their contract before they go back into free agency. More exotic formats can have a rookie salary cap and also factor in prorated contracts over multiple years. In some leagues, you can also trade salary cap room.
Individual Defensive Player (IDP) Leagues
For commissioners that want to eliminate the team defense concept, you can switch your league to individual defensive players. Just like offensive players, defensive players can be broken down into defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs. Some leagues even differentiate between defensive tackles and defensive ends and cornerbacks and safeties. You can have a set starting lineup like on offense (say two defensive linemen, two linebackers, and two defensive backs), or you can add flexible defensive positions like on offense. Defensive players score points based on tackles, assists, sacks, turnovers, and touchdowns. In larger leagues with seven or more starting defensive players, NFL games become much more exciting to watch because you feel like your team will score points on every play, either on offense or defense. It also gives owners a chance to build their teams in different ways: Be the team with a super strong defense or skimp on the offensive side of the ball or vice versa? You can also combine IDP with other formats such as dynasty or auction formats.
For guys who can't decide what they like more, you can always form a hybrid league. These leagues combine a couple different formats in order to provide the most variety and challenge to the teams involved. One league that I know of had a hybrid draft format. You started by keeping two players from your previous season. This declaration was done a week before draft night. On draft night everyone was given 200 salary cap units and they had to use them to acquire eight additional players via a live auction. The auction ended when everyone had ten players on their roster. Finally, the final ten positions were filled by a live draft, with the order determined by your winning percentage from the previous year. For an even bigger twist, you can say that the only people you can protect are players that were drafted. You can also have rules like no kickers or defenses can be acquired through auction. In a Hybrid format, you're only limit is your imagination (and record keeping skills).
SET IT AND FORGET IT LEAGUES
These leagues are designed more around people who love to draft but hate to play the "Who do I start?" game. These leagues are no trade, no free agency leagues where you draft your team and always start your best possible lineup each week once all of the NFL games are completed. The nice part about these type of leagues is that you can run them concurrently with your current league without much disruption. Once the draft is over, there is little for the commissioner to do except post the results and provide commentary.
Head-to-head and Best-ball Leagues
These leagues play just like a normal redraft league (this is the head-to-head part). In a Best-ball league, however, you don't have to name a starting lineup. Instead, your best possible starting lineup is determined. Games are decided after the Monday night game is complete and all players are done scoring. Rosters tend to be a little deeper in these leagues because there is no trading or free agency. You draft a lot of backups just in case your starters are injured and hope that your bye weeks don't line up against a tough division opponent.
All-play and Survivor Leagues
These leagues focus on pure scoring – who can score the most points week after week. In an All-play league, teams are ranked each week based on their points scored for that week. The highest-scoring team goes undefeated (11-0 in a 12-team league) and the lowest-scoring team gets blanked (0-11). The scores are reset and the same thing happens the next week. At the end of the season, the final standings are determined by who has the best cumulative record overall. In Survivor leagues, the league is based on the CBS reality series where the lowest-scoring team is kicked off the island each week, and the highest-scoring team receives immunity from elimination for the following week. You can eliminate the immunity if you like, but the idea is that one bad week will kill your chances to be the league champion.
This format works best with an auto start format. Scoring is determined each week and after a certain number of weeks, a winner is declared and all rosters are reset. Teams draft again during during the season (typically Week 5 through Week 7), and then the winners of each half compete for the overall championship. If the same team wins both halves, they win automatically. The key is that the entire league needs to redraft during the NFL season. If you have not participated in a mid-season redraft, you should give it a shot. It's one thing to draft before the season starts and everyone is still speculating on who will be the stud and who will not. In a mid-season redraft, there are very few sleepers and most of the speculation goes out the window.
WRAPPING IT UP
Changing the overall league format is a big step. You're basically taking everything about your league and turning it on it's head. Some of your owners will embrace the change with both hands. Others will resist it with all of their might, and may even walk away because of it. If you are really committed to changing your league though, you need to be okay with this. You're changing your league for a reason. Maybe things have gotten stale, and everyone is just going through the motions. Maybe you've had a couple owners drop out already and you're looking to shift things around a bit more.
Whatever the reason, going to a whole new format can really be a great experience both for the commissioner and the league. If any of these ideas have caught your eye, feel free to follow-up in other sections of this series and at Footballguys.com for more information on how to play or run one of these.
As a Commissioner, one of the hardest things to deal with is a dispute between two owners in the league. An owner may submit a questionable lineup or two owners may make a trade that looks very one sided. The NFL may change the scoring of a particular play and it changes the outcome of a fantasy game, or one site may say a player is a tight end and the other may say the player is a fullback. The longer that your league is in existence, the more likely that you'll run across one of these situations. You can try to anticipate these type of things with your constitution, but what if you run into a situation that doesn't quite fit into what you already have in place? Here are a couple different approaches that you can take to resolve these situations without tearing your league apart.
Always remember that any dispute should be resolved with the overall goal of the league in mind. It isn't about what works best for you or the guy who is your best friend. You need to approach every situation thinking 'how will the league benefit the most from this decision.' Even if the dispute is only between two owners, the rest of the league will be impacted by the decision. You're setting a precedent for future situations, and it might not involve just two owners next time. Always ask yourself what will benefit the most people going forward. If you proceed in a reasonable manner, you should come to a fair decision that works best for your league.
Another thing to remember is that YOU are the commissioner. You took on that position because you wanted to run the show. Your decisions may not be popular, and some people may be disappointed. They may even be mad at you for not taking their side. That's okay; it's your job as the commissioner of the league. When the NFL commissioner suspends a player for an off the field violation, the team, the player and even the fans may not be happy with the outcome. As commissioner, your job is not to make everyone like you. Your job is to do what's best for the league. Owner's don't have to like your rules; they just have to follow them.
Perhaps the most important thing to realize is that speed counts. When a dispute gets to a point that the commissioner is involved, things have already gotten ugly. Don't make things worse by dragging it out for weeks at a time. Take in both sides of the argument, weigh the options, gather additional input if necessary and then make a decision. You don't need to make a decision on the spot. In fact, saying "I need time to think about this" is probably the first answer that you should always give. Once you've taken a little time, however, render your decision and move on.
Vote or No Vote?
It has been said before, but it is worth repeating. Opening up decisions to a league vote is not always the best solution. In many cases, it can cause more trouble than it's worth. In cases where an owner proposes a new rule, or you are planning on making a major shift in a way that the league is run, putting it to a vote might be appropriate. However, if the dispute is between two owners, especially if involves a trade or some type of transaction between the two, be smart and leave the rest of the league out of it. What happens in most cases is that the friends of both owners come to their rescue or they side with whatever decision will benefit them the most. Putting these type of disputes to a league vote takes it from a scuffle between two owners to dividing up the league. Avoid the temptation to let the majority rule unless absolutely necessary. It could end up damaging things a lot more than you might think.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND SUGGESTIONS
Footballguys.com has an entire message board community dedicated to discussions about your fantasy football league and team. The Assistant Coach Forum has hundreds of people, and staff members reading through there on a daily basis and adding their opinions. If you're really stuck with a unique situation, or just want to see if anyone else has run into it before, feel free to pop over and post your specific question there. Make sure to give the specifics of your league and provide as much detail as possible. Many of the folks on the Footballguys.com community have been playing fantasy football for many years, and they bring a variety of different opinions and experiences to every situation.
Ask a Footballguy
Everyone on the Footballguys.com staff has a dedicated footballguys.com email (usually email@example.com). Many also have twitter accounts and other methods to reach out to them. If you prefer to talk to folks one-on-one, feel free to send any of us an email asking for help. A couple cautions with this please: Most of the guys on staff have other jobs as well as working for Footballguys.com. They may be busy or unable to answer your question immediately. Also, please do not spam everyone on staff with the same question. As you can imagine, we got a lot of junk mail and if email isn't sent directly to a person, it may end up in a spam folder or delete bucket. Most guys are more than happy to help out fellow fantasy football commissioners at any time. If you e-mail Cecil Lammey, Sigmund Bloom, or Matt Waldman, you might even hear your question read on the audible podcast!
COMMISSIONER PERSONAL INTEREST
There may come a time when you are personally involved in the situation. If that happens, you can go a couple different ways. If you make a ruling, you must be absolutely sure that you have the overall best interest of the league in mind, and you need to make sure to publicly explain your reasoning and why you went the way that you did. Especially if you plan to rule in your favor. Ultimately this is never a good option because no matter how impartial you may be, you decision always looks self-serving. Your next option would be to nominate an owner who is not involved, and instruct them on the provision about serving 'the good of the league'. In an extreme case, you could put it to a league vote with you and the other owner abstaining, but as mentioned above, this should be a last resort.
One of the provisions that we had in the sample constitution was for the creation of an executive committee of the league. You and two other owners are chosen at the beginning of each season (it can be the same guys, elected positions or just round robin selection). When a dispute comes up that is not covered in the constitution, then the executive committee can decide on it as a group. This also works if you or one of the committee members are part of the dispute because you can excuse yourself from the decision and there is still someone who will make the final call.
OUTSIDE SERVICES (IF ALL ELSE FAILS)
Google "fantasy football dispute resolution", and you'll find a landslide of different services that can help with fantasy league dispute resolutions. If you have tried any of the above suggestions, you probably won't need to use this type of thing. But if none of those ideas fit your style or league, I would encourage you to check out some of these other options as well.
AFTER THE DUST SETTLES
Once your ruling is over and the league moves on, as commissioner you still need to think about the future. When the season is over, you need to draw up a new provision to the constitution that covers or prevents the situation. This way you're covered for the future. If you had a good experience with the Footballguys forum or some other method, you can also add a provision that stipulates any future dispute that is not covered by the rules will be resolved in the same manner. As your constitution evolves, you'll cover more and more of the fringe areas until you have almost everything that you need. Good luck!