Ask The Commish: Can I Run My League Without Playing?

By Reginald James
Reginald James

Welcome to Ask the Commish! Normally, this column will follow a straightforward, by-the-numbers structure composed of your questions followed by my answers. This installment of Ask the Commish will be a little different.


While on Twitter, I came across a fantasy football commissioner, Rodin, who was using Yahoo! Fantasy for his league. He posted a question to Yahoo! Fantasy Care about an issue. I thought their response failed to address his concerns, so I jumped in. We’re talking about Twitter, where of course, we have to make what we want to say fit within the character limit. The following exchange has been edited for clarity due to some of the original truncated language:


I'm the commissioner of a league that I want to oversee and not play in. What do I do about the default team that's given to me? I'm unable to transfer it to anyone.


If you don't have anyone in the league yet, kill it, then one option would be to create a 'dummy' email account just to reregister a new league. You'll share that account as an admin, but the other person won't have login credentials to your personal “Yahoo world.” You could also add a co-manager, who will play while you act as an admin as needed, if your personal Yahoo account isn't that important to you. Then, there is no need for a dummy email account.


What was Yahoo’s response?Unfortunately you cannot be commissioner of a league without playing in it.”


I feel the wonderful thing about an advice column, is that we all can learn from the experience of others, myself included. I love when I learn something myself in the process of helping others. Upon reflection days later, I realized that I complicated the second option more than I had to. In fact, it wasn’t a solution at all, especially since I didn’t address the fact that he did not want to play. He did say that. His own team would’ve been an extra team.


Lesson learned: resist my need to quickly answer questions on Twitter, and make sure I clearly understand what someone is asking. I’ve misread posts in general before, and responded in kind. It would be nice to be able to edit your tweets, right? In any case, while Yahoo! didn't offer Rodin a solution, he made a decision on what he was going to do.


The Workaround


About a week later, I followed up with Rodin to find out what he decided to do. He chose a sort of modified version of the second option. Turns out, he created a league for beginners “for first or second-time fantasy players.” He simply wanted to run the league, not play in it. Rodin said he thought it, “Should be a fun experiment since it’s my first time as commish of a league of beginners.”


It worked out for Ronin since one of the league managers happens to be his mother, who is listed officially as the commissioner. So, instead of claiming a team himself, which he was trying to avoid doing in the first place, he decided to use her account for his commish duties. Instead of adding himself as a co-manager - which he could only do if he claimed a team himself, he would be the “ghost commissioner” as he described it. Simple.


Clear and Present Commish


If you’re familiar with any of my work as the “Dr. Phil of fantasy,” you know that I’m big on transparency: a commissioner is upfront with any official business that they engage in. They communicate fully and openly with the members of their league. There should never be any surprise actions or declarations of any sort.


I asked Rodin if the league members knew that he organized the league using his mom’s account, but he would be acting as the real commissioner, not her. Did they know he wasn’t going to play? I wanted to make sure that when he said "ghost commissioner" he didn’t mean literally behind the scenes.


Rodin informed me that indeed, he told the league that he would, “still be the commish and questions regarding fantasy football and how it works, will be sent to me.” Cool.


Why is it important that Rodin ensures that the league knows what he’s doing? After all, his heart is in the right place. He’s starting a league with inexperienced players. None of them have to worry about trying to both play and act out the duties of commissioner. He’s got that covered. Cool, right? Sure, but let’s say for instance, that Rodin, even having the best intentions, decided for whatever reason, to stay incognito. During the season, if Rodin never fully communicated what his official role was, people would believe that his mom was the commissioner. If his mother won the league, for example, and it came out that he was using her account and was really the commissioner, there’s the potential that some folks might take issue with that - even if there was no issue to be had.


Even commissioners who sincerely mean well will sometimes be unfairly accused of wrongdoing. It comes with the job sometimes. A lack of transparency can instantly cause league tension. As fantasy commissioners, sometimes we can’t control false accusations being tossed our way, but we can absolutely be responsible for establishing a high bar for being upfront in what we do. Establishing a consistent track record provides a pretty durable buffer against nonsensical league prattle.


The Dummy Account


Let’s review the first suggestion I offered to Rodin about using a dummy account. It worked out well for him because his mother was in the league. What if he didn’t have such a close relationship with any of the managers? What if he had no choice but to join the league himself in order to create it? The first suggestion would be a viable option. He would create a dummy account just for the purpose of running a league. He wouldn’t want to use a personal account because he wouldn’t want to give someone access to his personal information. Then one of the league managers would use the credentials of the dummy account to play in the league.


Of course, Rodin would inform everyone about how he set up the league ahead of time. At the end of the season, he could change the password of the account, and save it to use for another day.


A Good Start


I love the idea of Rodin spreading the fantasy love by overseeing a beginner’s league. I’m assuming he’s an experienced player himself, and it’s cool he chose not to purposely insert himself in a situation where he could’ve taken advantage of the new folk.


It would be great if Yahoo! offered an option for a “commissioner-only” role in their leagues. I think I’ll write them about it. They always ask for suggestions on how to improve their platform. If you think it’s a good idea, join me in letting them know. It’s the platform I use for my own league. Share your story if you’ve had a situation like Rodin. Did you handle it differently? Let me know. Also, send me your other fantasy league related questions. The Commish is here to help.