Ask The Commish: A Playoff Contender Still Owes Money!

By Reginald James
Reginald James

Help. I have a manager who looks like they’re going to be one of the top seeds in our playoff. Problem is, they haven’t paid their dues. I know I should’ve done something by now, but I honestly just gave up asking for the money. I felt things were going to get ugly and I didn’t want to cause any issues in the league. I actually read one of your older articles on No Pay to Play. I will adopt it next year. I promise!


But what about this year? Should I take away their seed and give it to someone else? Should I tell him if they are due to win money, I’m not paying them? We pay first through third. Cause I’m not. Also, I don’t think no one else knows, so should I be transparent, like you like to say, and tell everyone else what’s happening?


First, thanks for being a reader of Commish HQ. I really appreciate that. Second, you’re talking about “No Pay, No Play” (not No Pay to Play). I just want anyone new who is reading this to know what you’re taking about. New folk! Read about that here. Third, yes, please adopt that policy so this never happens again. I believe you. Alright, all mild joking aside, let’s jump in.


I think it’s too late to kick them out (although you didn’t ask about that). I think it’s too late to challenge them now asking for the money, or else you’re going to bar them from the playoff. It’s also too late to inform them they’re not getting any money if they place. I don’t know why they would expect to get any of the winnings, but you know, people are going to “people,” in other words be ridiculous.


All of the above actions I described will disrupt your league, and there’s not enough time left in the season for recovery. It’s almost over. For instance, if you tell them they’re not getting a playoff seed or they’re not getting any money, they might tank the rest of the upcoming weeks in “protest.” That disruption of a sudden drop of competitiveness wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the league. Upon hearing the news, they might choose to leave the league, which might not be a bad thing in theory. However, there’s no guarantee that they’d leave on their own accord. If you want them out, you just have to kick them out, but you need to be sure that your platform provides tools for you to rejig the schedule. If you can’t do that, then you can’t afford to have them leave.


Further, I wouldn’t say a word at this juncture. I respect your nod to transparency. If you read my stuff like you say, you know I do. However, at this point, you need to deal with this on your own. You want to leave the rest of the league out of it as well.  You want to avoid any form of retaliation just like with your debtor. They might not like how you handled things up to this point, and could leave or tank in protest themselves. We don’t want that going down either.


Debtor Man has otherwise played the game straight, with no other league trouble, right? They’ve compiled a legit win-loss record, right? In my opinion, that can’t be erased, and needs to be recognized. I’m assuming your playoff is probably starting at least within the next two weeks. Win-loss records have been established, head-to-head matchups have taken place, and there’s only one bye week left. The “damage” has been done. Let it play out.


I agree with you: they don’t get any of the winnings. If they place, they’ll find out they’re not getting anything when you make the payouts. The other two finishers will get the pot, split it up in whatever way you come up with. If you’re in the position to cover the money owed yourself, then you might either split that money among the remaining two, or keep your pay schedule as planned. So for example, if Mr. Debtor comes in third, then give the “fourth” place team the prize money instead.


I recommend informing the rest of the league what was going on, when you reward the money. They’ll find out in the congratulatory letter (or text), if you send one, for example. The rest of the league will see that you dealt with the situation equitably (as best you could) with the payouts. Sure, there might be someone who won’t agree perhaps with what you chose to do, but the season will be over, and there will be no no action, retaliatory or otherwise, for them to partake in. There'll be no Jenga tower to knock over. Please let me know what you decide and how it turns out.



I was asked to run our league in the middle of the season this year. Unfortunately, our long-time commissioner got sick and is no longer with us. I took over his team. Everything has been above board, and I’ve had full support of the rest of the league. I’m close to getting a bye … I’ll find out after this weekend. There might be a chance our two teams could meet in the following round. Anything can happen, but I’m trying to plan ahead. I don’t think there will be a problem. I’m not going to do anything differently, but I’m worried, just a little bit, maybe because it’s the playoff, but is there anything you suggest I do to cover my ass if this actually happens? Like I said, everyone has been supportive, but I just want to finish this stewardship without slipping up and not be accused of doing anything wrong.


Sorry to hear about your commissioner. I wouldn’t want to manage two teams in a situation like yours. Congrats for taking it on. It sounds like you’ve done a good job, in regards to getting the team to the playoff, but more importantly, by all appearances, without any reproach from the other managers. If your league mates have no qualms with what you’ve done so far, keep doing whatever it is that you’re doing.


I honestly don’t know what you could change, except that maybe once the playoff begins, you announce to the league any waiver moves you make for the custodial team. You might already be doing that. Anything you do is already going to be recorded in the transaction log anyway. I’m just thinking that making an additional announcement might add a personal touch. Yet, as I type this, I’m not really convinced this will make that much of a difference if everyone is already cool with you managing both teams. I don’t want to come with an answer if there really isn’t one, and I’m not sure there’s much else for me to add. I think your heart is in the right place, and you've done well. Some people can't even get their own team to their league playoff. You've gotten two in (potentially). Since it’s all worked out so far for you, I don’t know how you’ll slip up if you stay the course. Good luck.




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