Today I write this with a very heavy heart. A dynasty league that I started five years ago will be ending after Week 16. Wait a minute, I'm a fantasy "expert" and I write commissioner articles. How did this happen?
I have learned many lessons with this league. Please make sure you build a dynasty league with a solid group of owners that have a common thread. Get owners from a message board, a strong group of friends, a softball team, work, etc. I did not do that with this league. It was a hodgepodge beginning with owners from all different places. After looking to the other two dynasty leagues I was in at the time, I found several owners interested in playing a league with individual defensive players (IDPs). Seven owners from those other leagues joined mine. In my arrogance, I wanted another 14 team league (the other two leagues were that big) that was just as good or better than those other leagues. My new dynasty league would award money for 1st and 2nd highest score for the week, highest efficiency rating for non-playoff teams (rewarding for starting the best possible lineups according to myfantasyleague software), 1st thru 4th places, and division winners. I did this to give all owners a chance to recoup some of their investment. Dynasty leagues are a major investment of time and money.
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Recruitment was an issue as this was before the twitter age. I knew other fantasy players from a few fantasy message boards, but did not have a personal connection like I did with those I recruited. I pressed a few of the others to find people who loved football that would be a great fit. We found our last six original members: my best friend, someone's boss and the boss' best friend, a step-dad who had never played fantasy football, someone's local league guy who had never played dynasty, and a guy from a message board who answered a post looking for owners.
After serious reflection, I should have started the league with a stronger roster of owners who knew what they were doing. The idea of getting dynasty savvy owners was wise, but also proved difficult. My entry fee was substantial ($225), but was less than the fees I was paying to be in the other two dynasties. It becomes hard justifying to your wife/partner spending over $700 a year in league fees in this economy. That became a sticky point down the road.
At the end of the first year, two owners left. One left for money reasons and the other simply didn't care for dynasty. I was fortunate to find two replacement owners that were willing to take these existing teams. The first bump I dealt with quickly as the league was young, if only it was always that easy.
For the first two years of this league, my vice-commissioner was holding the league money. It turned out this was a huge mistake as he let some people slide on paying dues without letting me know about it until close to the end of the 2nd season. This caused tension as a few owners thought they could pay at their leisure. I had written in the bylaws that fees needed to be collected by the end of September. My enforcement of the rules irritated some after the lackadaisical efforts earlier. At the end of the season, three owners left because they wanted to pay at some point instead of being held accountable on time with one of them stiffing the league over $175. I justifiably decided to relieve my vice-commissioner of his duties due to this snafu.
I recruited three people, including my girlfriend who is now my wife, to replace the abandoned teams. We had a replacement owners' draft, a concept I stole from the footballguys.com affiliated Zealots leagues. This draft had all the players of the abandoned teams, available free agents, and rookie picks of the former teams available to the new owners. This seemed to work well. I made it a financial requirement for all teams to have at least $100 in the league account before they could take part in the May rookie draft to speed up payments.
The former vice-commissioner didn't like that I required $100 to draft in the rookie draft. He felt I wasn't a good commissioner because it was unreasonable to ask for $100 before the rookie draft occurred. (This was after getting burnt by an owner who didn't pay on his watch). We agreed to disagree and I left his dynasty league in December 2009 while he left mine shortly before the rookie draft began in April 2009. I found his replacement on another message board (when would I learn). I would replace 12 owners in five years while keeping seven core owners throughout. The constant recruitment and re-explanation of the league rules to new owners wore on me each year.
Issues began coming up with "tanking." This is the concept of losing on purpose to help another team advance or to secure better picks in the rookie draft. I decided to define tanking as the act of starting a player that had no expectation of receiving meaningful game time. The concept of starting a 2nd string QB or K, someone who listed as doubtful or out, or someone on bye was considered tanking. The league also initiated a $5 fine to owners that started anyone that had no reasonable expectation of playing or left ineligible players on their taxi squad (players listed as questionable or probable who were not rookies). The taxi squad's purpose was to hold rookies that weren't ready to play and injured players that couldn't play. The decision to define tanking opened up a wide door with some owners.
By putting a measuring stick on what tanking was, it let owners live in the shadows with what they could do to lose according to the league rules. I had a few outspoken league members that questioned other owners motives constantly. For example: this owner started Phillip Rivers above Peyton Manning (pre-injury), etc.
I would send texts for people to submit their lineups on Sundays before game time or for them to fix the players on their taxi squad. I became a babysitter with team owners thinking it was my job to make sure their lineups were in. I would get calls when I was on vacation or visiting family that this person did this wrong, man it got old in the 2nd year let alone the 5th year. I even had to change the software settings on myfantasyleague to keep owners from going in changing lineups after Thursday night games played. Some owners discovered you could change players that had already played if you didn't set your lineup before the Thursday game started.
To me, if you were willing to pony up $225 for a league, then every owner should be responsible for their own team's management. I regret coddling some owners over rules. It's a shame so many owners never bothered to read them, even though I directed everyone to read them before joining the league. One owner thought I was coddling too much and another owner thought I should coddle more. The bickering and questioning became too much to deal with over the last five years.
After twelve replacement owners, four owners shorting the league money, the tattle tailing, and attempting to lose without looking like tanking just became too much. I decided if something is that broken, let it end.
Keep this dynasty commissioner's lessons learned the hard way in regards to starting and maintaining a dynasty league: Start with a group of owners with a common thread. Get experienced dynasty owners or at least owners that love football who follow it year round. Keep the money in the commissioner's hands. Have a plan in place to replace exiting owners. Do not define tanking. Let it be ambiguous enough that it is enforceable when you need it. Refer everything to the rules and do not get caught up in fixing other owner's lineup issues or owners will believe it is the commissioner's job. Good luck.
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