Last Week’s Question:
Do Most Leagues Return Entry Fees to All
Owners Who Make the Playoffs?
A Kenneth and David wrote to me in the hope that I could settle
a bet for them, but I really don’t know the answer to their
question about what the “standard practice” for payouts
in fantasy leagues might be.
One of us thinks that in most leagues just
making the playoffs will get your entry fee returned. The other
one thinks that usually you have to advance in the playoffs to
get your money back. Who is right?
Most of the responses I received reinforced my suspicion
that there is no “standard practice” in fantasy leagues.
Payout structures appear to vary so much from league to league
that neither I nor most of the readers who wrote in could even
guess what the threshold is for getting your money back in the
majority of leagues. Kim’s response was typical:
Our league (this is our 13th year) falls somewhere
in the middle of those two beliefs. Half of our league makes the
playoffs, and up until this year, everyone who made the playoffs
got some portion (but not necessarily the full amount) of their
entry fee back. In the past when we were a 10-team league, you
had to finish 4th to get your entry fee back. The person finishing
5th got half their entry fee back. This year we expanded to 12
teams and voted (albeit by the smallest of margins: 6-5) to change
the structure of our prize money payouts. Half the league (6 teams)
makes the playoffs, but the team finishing 6th gets nothing. The
5th-seeded team gets roughly half their entry fee back, and the
4th gets slightly more than their entry fee. The prize money for
placing comes completely from entry fees. We use transaction fees
for other awards such as: division champions, highest one-week
score, highest one-week losing score and a week 17 contest where
high score for that week gets the remainder of the pot –
usually $40 or so.
In closing I would say there is no “standard” on this
issue. I was in a 16-team league in which 8 teams made the playoffs
but only the top 4 were awarded prize money. I’ve also been
in leagues where fewer teams (less than half the league) made
the playoffs and each playoff team received more than their entry
fee back. It would seem to me that there are nearly as many options
for prize structures out there as there are rules for scoring
in fantasy football—and to my mind, that’s the beauty
The only reader brave enough to answer Kenneth and Dave’s
question directly was Brad, who wrote:
The short answer is most leagues [do not return
entry fees to all teams that make the playoffs because most leagues
prefer to make payouts] top-heavy. For example, in one league
I am in the entry fee is $65 per team, no transaction fees, SB
winner gets $400, loser gets $170 and division winners get $25
each. That's it out of 8 playoff teams, but I think that's pretty
normal for leagues with a smaller entrance fee. My other league
has a $300 entry fee plus transaction charges (meaning most people
are in for around $450 by season’s end). In that league
1st in each division will win money, 2nd will break about even,
3rd and 4th will need to win playoff games to break even. Anytime
we've discussed redistribution of money the push always seems
to be to give it to the top. To the victors go the spoils I suppose.
In David’s league, the threshold for getting your
money back isn’t making the playoffs; it is winning the
consolation tourney (which is his way of motivating all owners
to do their best all the way through the season):
I've been the Commissioner of my fantasy league
(WLFFL) for what will be 9 seasons. We give payouts to the following:
Super Bowl champ, runner-up, most total points scored all season,
and most points scored in a single week. The top 6 teams make
the playoffs, and the bottom 6 make the 'consolation bracket.’
The winner of the consolation tourney gets his entry fee back
as kind of a 'boobie prize.’ There are a few owners in my
league who would like to eliminate the consolation bracket and
give the money to the division winners or the super bowl champ,
but I look at the consolation bracket as giving EVERYONE a chance
(yes, even the worst team in the league) to remain competitive
until the final day of the season. The winner of the consolation
bracket merely wins their entry fee back, but something is better
than nothing, and [it’s enough to keep all of my owners
active throughout the season]. Having a consolation bracket is
a built-in way to 'police' the league. In the past, a team in
last place with 3 games to go would usually just cough up the
rest of their games (which are always meaningful to the rest of
the teams and usually have playoff implications for some). Now,
however, they play for a seed in the consolation bracket and know
that at the VERY LEAST they can save some face and get their money
Having the consolation bracket has been very successful as long
as we've had it. I HIGHLY recommend a system like that (and giving
the entry fee back to the winner) for most leagues.
My thanks to everyone who wrote in. I’m sorry there
doesn’t appear to be a clear consensus for Kenneth and David,
but I hope the responses included here can help them finalize
the payout structure for their league.
This Week’s Question:
How Many Leagues that Play for Bragging
Rights Only (no purse) Are Still Going Strong?
This week’s question comes from Mac, who writes:
You write an awful lot about payouts and transaction
fees—and even methods for collecting dues. It gives me the
feeling that all the other leagues out there are playing for money.
Is my league the last one left for people who just play for pride?
We are still going strong after 16 years, and our stakes are nothing
compared to what other people seem to play for. The winner gets
a trophy, and the loser has to serve as commissioner the following
year. We don’t pay entry fees or transaction fees, and we
don’t have to use tricks and incentives to keep all the
owners motivated to do their best to the end of the season. We
all want to win just so we can give the losers [a hard time] for
sucking. Are we a dying breed?
I feel confident in saying that purse-less leagues are
here to stay. Most of the expert leagues I am familiar with (the
ones that publicize the picks and the standings of various expert
competitors) require nothing more than an invitation for participation.
Also, there are obviously plenty of websites that allow strangers
to compete with each other in FF leagues for free. But as for
traditional fantasy leagues with members who know and compete
with each other year after year, most of them do seem to me (based
on the emails I have received over the years) to be wager-oriented.
I would be very interested
to hear from anyone who belongs to or knows of a fantasy league
that 1) is NOT organized strictly for FF industry experts; 2)
plays for no purse; and 3) retains its membership year after year.
I am particularly interested in hearing about what might be at
stake in such leagues (beyond bragging rights) and/or the traditions
that keep the owners coming back for more.
Last Man Standing Picks (Courtesy of
Mark Den Adel)
Last week Mark went 3-0. He now stands at 32-9 for the year.
Things will only get harder for him in the coming weeks as he
has used up his 10th team in Pittsburgh this week.
#1. Oakland over Denver
Denver has simply surrendered—as evidenced by their loss
to Arizona including Arizona’s kicker scoring a TD against
them. Oakland won the first game 59-14 in a blowout at Denver,
and nothing has changed to indicate Denver can beat the Raiders
in Oakland. Oakland’s 3rd-ranked rushing offense (featuring
Darren McFadden) will have a field day against Denver’s
31st-ranked rushing defense.
#2. Miami over Buffalo
Buffalo was happy to get another win, and the Dolphins are coming
off an upset victory over the Jets. Miami’s passing defense
is 6th, and the Bills’ passing offense has been shut down
the last 3 weeks. The Bills’ rushing defense is dead last,
so Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams should have a great day. Miami
won this Week 1 matchup 15-10 at Buffalo, so the Fish should have
no trouble winning at home.
#3. Pittsburgh over NY Jets
The Jets can’t score, and Pittsburgh has the league’s
top-ranked defense. Tomlinson and Greene will be bottled up by
Pittsburgh’s fierce rush defense although the Jets’
rushing offense is ranked 6th. Expect a low-scoring game to be
decided by which defense can cause the most turnovers and turn
them into points. The Jets have never won in Pittsburgh, and the
Steelers have only given up 36 points in the last 4 weeks. History
is on Pittsburgh’s side—and so am I.
Upset of the week - This week I’ll
take Cleveland over Cincinnati as Colt McCoy is back under center
for the Browns. The Dawg Pound should be as excited about McCoy’s
return as Peyton Hillis has to be going up against the Bengals
24th-ranked rushing defense. Cleveland won the earlier matchup
in Week 4 when Terrell Owens had 222 yards receiving. Nine of
Cleveland’s thirteen games have been decided by 7 or fewer
points, and I see this one being close as well. But I have to
give this rematch to the Browns.
For responses to this week's fantasy
question please email me.