Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Fantasy Football Draft Day Nightmare

Serving as a league commissioner is usually an easy job...not this year. I'm the commish for a fantasy football league that me and two friends started years ago. We rotate the commish job each season and this year it's my turn again. There's usually 8-10 returning players with some new additions each year. We always do an online draft since everyone's all over the country.

Being a responsible fantasy league commissioner, I set up the league in Yahoo back in mid July, scheduled a good draft date/time near the end of pre-season and sent out the invites. About a week from the draft we had 8 teams registered. I started sending emails and making calls to get us up to 12 teams. Two days before the draft we had 11 and one of the other league founders had #12 lined up.

On draft night I logged in 45 minutes early and #12 still hadn't signed up. Tried calling the guy who recruited him but couldn't reach him. Meanwhile I'm planning to boot #11 if we're not at twelve teams right before draft time. Last thing we want is an odd number of teams and have to deal with bye weeks...that's no fun for anyone.

Then the real trouble starts. Refreshed my browser 29 minutes to draft and see a message from Yahoo that the league was switched to an "Auto Pick" draft format (where the computer picks players for all teams) because we didn't have an even number of teams. Crap!

I quickly kicked out team #11 to get us down to even teams. #11 is a long time league member, and I hated doing that, but he dragged his feet and signed up last. I thought that if the league had an even number of teams and I set the draft type back to Online, we'd get our original draft time back. Sounds reasonable and it's how I would've designed the system.

But that's not how Yahoo works. It let me switch to Online draft mode but forced me to pick a new draft date and time! And it wouldn't let me pick any draft times that night! Are you kidding me?!

All this time I'm trying to keep folks updated via the league message board, get one of the other league founders on the phone and fire off a quick email to Yahoo support. And I called #11 to explain why he was booted.

One guy suggested creating a league in another system and trying to draft there. The members who replied on the message board all wanted to do the draft that night so I told him to go ahead. He set up a league in ESPN and got us a draft time two hours later. We had everyone who was online sign up for an ESPN account and create a team.

There was some discussion about still trying to get 12 teams. Unfortunately, the format that the dummy draft league was created under only allows 10 teams using ESPN standard scoring. The scoring wasn't an issue because I would load the draft picks back into Yahoo but we couldn't change league size. I decided to stick with 10 teams. Getting a hold of everyone again to join yet another league and try to get #11 back plus a 12th team in time to meet ESPN's league size cutoff (1 hour before draft) was too much chaos.

One league member wasn't available online so I registered a team for him and sent him the login info. Since he wasn't online for the original draft time and Yahoo would've picked his team, it would be ok for the ESPN system to auto draft his team. I forgot to consider that he might have pre-ranked his players in Yahoo.

That guy ended up getting on in time for the draft but couldn't get ESPN's draft tool to work on his computer so he got an auto pick team. Another team couldn't get the draft tool to work either but he had someone else log in for him and told them who to pick over the phone.

It was a mess but we got through it and the league had a successful draft. I'm very thankful that the league members were flexible and patient enough to roll with the changes.

Turns out the guy whose team had been auto picked by ESPN knew he wasn't going to make the Yahoo draft and spent a lot of time pre-ranking players. He wasn't happy and has a legitimate gripe. Unfortunately there wasn't much else we could've done without rescheduling the draft to another night which didn't work for most people.

Afterward I manually loaded all of the draft picks into our original Yahoo league. That was a lot of fun.

So what did I learn from this draft fiasco?
1. Make sure all league members register in advance. This was my responsibility as commish and I dropped the ball. Mainly because I don't like hounding people. Give your league a deadline to register well ahead of the draft and hold to it.
2. Know your system's rules on league size and draft type. We always have an even number of teams so I didn't pay attention to these when creating the league. Yahoo supported odd number leagues in the past via bye weeks and I assumed it wouldn't complain if we had an odd number right before draft time. Well, they changed that rule this season and I got caught by surprise because I didn't do my homework.
3. Have alternate contact info for league members. Having a list of phone numbers or IM IDs for everyone might've helped me get folks re-organized quicker. If we had a league IM chat going, it definitely would've helped.
4. The commish has to make decisions quickly. There wasn't a clear solution. Rescheduling to another night this close to the season opener wasn't feasible. After a reasonable amount of input from the league it's up to the commish to make the call.
5. Don't count on Yahoo's fantasy sports support! The only support is an email link which I didn't expect much from. I got an auto reply email saying that I'd get a reply in 24 hours. No response until 54 hours later and they couldn't do anything for me. ESPN on the other hand has a toll free number which one guy called and got a live person and an answer right away.

It was a lousy situation but I'm good with the decisions made that night. We got the draft done and the season can begin. Here's hoping for a trouble free fantasy season!