By Adam Holtz
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Note: This column and the one that follows next will be a two-part installment. This column will focus on how a Commissioner should act. The next column will focus on how fantasy league owners should act.
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Part One: Conduct Befitting a Fantasy Commissioner
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Who are you? Are you just one of the guys in your league who play fantasy football? Are you just some guy who collects money from the rest of the league owners and pays it out at the end of the season? Are you just the guy who runs the draft and then fades off into the sunset for the rest of the year? Of course not. As the commissioner, you are the “point man” for anything that takes place in your league. That includes dues money and draft night arrangements to be sure (as I have mentioned in previous columns), but it also includes other things like mediating disputes (over scoring, trades, etc.), penalizing owners when necessary, and even things like moderating the league message board and congratulating owners when their teams win.
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You’ve probably read in other places some kind of “Ten Commandments for Commissioners” list that says what one may or may not do as a commissioner. I won’t try to parody that sort of list, but I will give you some tips on how a commissioner would conduct himself if his goal is to garner respect from the league’s owners.
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Treat the league owners with respect. Remember that (in most cases) you are an owner as well. Don’t talk down to them as if you’re the U.S. President or had any kind of authority that actually mattered in real life. As commissioner, there might be times where you need to show some authority (i.e. discipline), but if you do not at all times show the others that you respect them as partners in your league, why should they respect you in return?
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Be consistent in all your decision-making. This includes things like scheduling (both games and the draft), vetoing trades, handing out penalties, changing or implementing rules, chastising or praising others on message boards, and the like. If anyone feels like you are playing favorites, guess what: he’s also lost a lot of respect for you as the commish.
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Maintain open lines of communication. Before you decide to up and change the draft to an auction or go from waivers to a free-agent bid system, run the idea past the league owners. Let everyone bat the idea around for a while. Let the owners know that you care about their opinions. They need to know they can drop you an email if they think a couple of owners might be colluding. If they have a concern that a certain rule might unfairly penalize a team, they need to know that they have an open line to your “office.”
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Give the league owners a stake in the league itself. This is sort of like the last point. Let them vote on rules changes. Maybe you let the league owners vote on whether or not to veto trades. Let everyone decide together how to divvy up the prize money (probably best to do that before the season starts!). Things like this show the owners that you’re not out to be a dictator and that you value their input on important details.
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The most important thing to remember here is that as the commissioner, you don’t necessarily need the rest of the owners to like you, but you want them to respect you and the (somewhat limited) authority you have. You can win a lot of respect by simply doing the things mentioned above.
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Some other ways to earn kudos from the rest of the league:
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  • Be a back-patter. If you notice that a bad fantasy team (or even a good one) is having a surprisingly good day, let them know about it: “Hey D., great game from Jahvid Best today! I was wondering when he’d finally be back in form after that injury.” Let them know that you observe what’s going on with all the teams, even theirs.
  • Make a periodic message board post about goings-on in your league. Try to sound like a reporter getting a hot scoop: “Will the recent signing of suddenly-hot Peyton Hillis give D.M. Infinity the boost they need to finally make it to the playoffs this season?” Or post a Power Rankings list. Everyone seems to love those – they tend to get some discussions going. And it shows the league that you follow everything going on in the league.
  • When the league champion is finally determined, be the first to congratulate them (as long as it’s not your own team – that would be tacky), just like the commish does in real sports. Get on the message board, or send an email to the entire league announcing your personal offering of congratulation.

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As always, comments are welcome. Let us know how your commish has earned your respect.
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Coming in the next installment of Commish’s Corner, Part Two: Conduct Befitting a Fantasy Owner.

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Adam Holtz is a former college sports information director living in southern Minnesota. His 15 years of playing fantasy sports – as well as 15 years of commissioner work – have given him a wealth of experience on which to draw. For the record, his wife’s signing of Peyton Hillis did give her team the boost it needed to make the league playoffs, while the Commish’s team languished in the Toilet Bowl playoffs.
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Email the Commish: adam.holtz(at)gmail.com or check out his blog at champguy.blogspot.com.


By Adam Holtz
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When you pay your annual dues for a fantasy league, what happens to that money? Is your commissioner almost too happy to accept cash from you? Does he make a comment about how he can pay his rent now? Or mumble something about a gift for his latest girlfriend? Or maybe he goes straight to the vending machine, using one of your singles to buy himself a refreshment.
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The truth is that not many fantasy players actually know what happens with their dues money. All too often, commissioners will either deposit it in their bank account or spend it straight out of their wallet (that is, if you pay your dues with cash – which is probably your own fault to begin with). Then, when the season ends, the commish either struggles to pay the winner(s), or flat out doesn’t pay winnings (“I guess I forgot – I’ll take care of it soon”) at all.
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Worse yet, when the commissioner does actually pay prizes, he probably pays out less money than the winner is expecting, using an excuse of, “Well, a couple guys never paid the dues this year, so the prize money is less.”
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Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you? They shouldn’t, but you know they do. They happen all the time. Commissioners are imperfect people with good intentions (or sometimes bad people with nefarious intentions) who can (and do) make mistakes and poor decisions. People get away without paying in for the year, and commissioners get away with paying out less than they take in, as well as paying in an untimely fashion. And while these people are seldom penalized for such laziness and/or selfishness, the people who do things the “right” way are likewise never rewarded for having done so. Not cool.
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Your dues money – or more exactly, the league’s dues money, once paid – should be collected on time, kept safely in reserve, and paid out promptly. Those three points are not negotiable. No exceptions. Your commissioner owes it to your league, and all people playing in the league owe each other the respect of prompt payment. Put most simply, it is a matter of character: do the owners in your league have enough character to respect each other in this way – and if not, does the commissioner have the character to enforce these hard-and-fast rules?
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While the mode of collection and payment – as well as method of keeping the money – is open to discussion, the three main points are simply absolute. If your commissioner cannot follow those three rules for you and your league-mates, you have the following options: (a) get a different commissioner who will make sure they do follow those rules, (b) make your league a no-money league, or (c) leave the league.
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There are no excuses here, commissioners. Collect the dues money on time. Don’t insult the courtesy of those people who pay dues on time by allowing others to skate by. Enforce the deadline. Announce it weeks – even months – in advance. Threaten penalties – monetary, or maybe points, if necessary. And if someone cannot or will not pay, it’s simple: find someone else to run that team. It sounds brash, but look at it from this perspective: others pay promptly, so allowing someone a free pass for not paying on time (or at all) does those good people a disservice, and makes your life more difficult as well. Fix the problem by eliminating it. Don’t let any faux friendships get in the way, either (“Aw, c’mon, man, we’re buds – you know I’m good for it!”). Everyone agreed to pay the dues; they know the score. Now it’s time to pay the piper. However you collect the money is up to you and the people in your league – cash (not recommended), check, Paypal, bank transfer, etc. – just make sure everyone knows how they can pay, and when they need to pay.
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When it comes to holding other people’s money, it is a responsibility that cannot be taken seriously enough. It makes no difference what the amount is – it’s not your money! What belongs to the league must absolutely be kept separate from one’s personal spending money. (For a real estate broker, such co-mingling of personal and business money would land you in jail.) Whether you open up a separate bank account, put all the money in a jar in your closet, whatever. But don’t you dare use that money to buy anything for yourself – or anyone else! Not even for the cute girl who’s flirting with you from across the room at the bar (besides, you’re tipsy anyway – who knows if she’s flirting with you or with the other guy sitting at the very next table?); trust me, that money is much better off being kept in your pocket than being spent on drinks for her (this advice goes double if you are married). Again, just remember, it’s not your money!
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If you do your job on steps 1 and 2 (collecting and keeping), then step 3 (paying out) will be a breeze. Everyone who has prize money coming will know that you have it and will be able to pay them promptly. It’s not your money anyway, right? You collected from everybody, right? You’ve kept it separate from your money…right? So now you’ll pay them all immediately after the season ends…. RIGHT? So do it! Easy! ‘Nuff said.
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Now, here is where we get into the disclaimer portion of the column. No one is advocating for or against any of the companies named below. I am simply mentioning some of the most widely used companies, and I encourage readers to go and check for themselves which one they think is best for their league(s). There, disclaimer done.
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The commissioner’s job can be made much, MUCH simpler (not to mention more transparent and trustworthy) with the help of an online dues service. There are a couple of sites out there offering these services; the ones I hear mentioned most often are LeagueSafe and Fantasy Sports Vault. With services such as these, your members can securely pay dues online with a credit card or e-check, or even with paper checks to the commish or the service’s home office, who then submit electronic payments on those owners’ behalf (these options vary depending on provider and specific league settings). Then, the money is held securely by the service provider’s bank on your behalf, with a detailed accounting of who paid in what and when. After the season, prizes are paid out according to your league’s specific rules. Pretty straight forward.
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Using a service such as this will make the commissioner’s life easier in a number of ways:  Everyone gets the exact same notifications to pay their dues; everyone can see when the deadline is, and what penalties apply if they fail to pay on time; everyone knows where the money is kept; everyone knows the winner(s) will be paid promptly. And best of all, most of the services provided by these sites is completely FREE. (Some options are provided for a fee, but there is always at least one “free option” for paying dues and receiving prize money.)
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Commissioners: Your job is not always easy, but you know that. You do it anyway. There’s no problem in looking out for yourself, as well as for your league’s integrity. I’m not necessarily advocating for the use of an online dues management service; however, I am advocating for the three firm rules I mentioned above: on-time collection, legitimate safe keeping of dues money, and prompt payouts. If a commissioner can do all three without the online help, then by all means, feel free. But I don’t see a situation where using such a service makes the commish’s job more difficult. If there is one, I’d like to hear about it! Comments or emails are welcomed, as always.
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Adam Holtz is a former college sports information director living in southern Minnesota. His 15 years of playing fantasy sports – as well as 15 years of commissioner work – have given him a wealth of experience on which to draw. In fact, he’s probably a better commissioner than he is a fantasy player: his wife’s team swept him in two head-to-head games last football season. He is very eager to get some revenge – and to sleep on the couch.
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Email the Commish: adam.holtz(at)gmail.com or check out his blog at champguy.blogspot.com.


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