The OIL has been competing for over 10 years, and we take pride in what our league has become. Commissioners often ask us for advice, and we're glad to share. So here is a quick tutorial to help commissioners take their fantasy football league to the next level. You'll notice we don't cover league settings such as roster positions and scoring categories. Whatever works for your league is what you should use. But a great scoring system doesn't make a league great. Instead, it's the community you build that makes your league something to be proud of. So here we go:
The easiest way to change the dynamic of your league is to add a traveling trophy. The OIL awards a traveling trophy in lieu of a cash prize, but your league could easily award both. A "traveling" trophy is one that is held in trust by the league champion. He or she keeps the trophy until a new champion is crowned. The OIL uses SculptureAlley.net for its trophies but there are a lot of options out there. The OIL's trophies have a laser-engraved title plate with the league logo and each season's champion is engraved onto the trophy base. Think of it like the Stanley Cup. Due to the popularity of the FX show The League, many leagues refer to their trophy as The Shiva.
Nothing beats a live draft party. The camaraderie and trash talk just can't be replicated in a remote, online-only draft. If you're like the OIL and have some managers living far away, it will be difficult to have a true live draft, but now you can have the best of both worlds. There are a number of products that allow you to have the experience of a live draft while allowing far-away managers to participate online. Those products are:
Team logos create the sense of a league of "franchises." They encourage managers to settle on a permanent team name, and the permanence of the name encourages managers not to use player name puns that will be dated by next season.
For fantasy football team name ideas that do not include player name puns, click here.
Logos give each manager a sense of pride in their team. It's a universal feeling. People love visual representations of their community. It's why we look at flags as something more than colored fabric, and it's why we pay more for clothing with brand names and logos.
Click here to see the OIL's team logos.
If you're not a graphic design wizard, you can still get a great team logo. There are websites like 48hourslogo.com and 99designs.com, where multiple designers will compete to create the best logo for your project. But those sites are pricey, so the OIL has sought out other options. There are a multitude of talented designers with a passion for sports logos at the SportsLogos.net forums. Head on over to their Requests forum and you can easily hire someone to create your logo.
The /r/freedesign subreddit on Reddit is another good resource, and, as the name suggests, it's free. There is also /r/logodesign and a host of resources listed over at /r/graphicdesign. Finally, some users on Fiverr.com will create a logo for you, starting at $5. A quick word of warning though: it's sometimes difficult to get revisions and the design is not always original work (but that's what you get for $5).
The OIL has used, among others, these designers for their team logos:
Custom Jerseys and Helmets
If you have a traveling trophy, you may want to award something more permanent for managers to keep even after they've been dethroned. This could be a smaller "keeper" trophy or it could be something more unique. In the OIL, we award custom jerseys and mini-helmets for conference champions and league champions, respectively. Custom fantasy football jerseys are available at:
Custom mini-helmets are available at HelmetNation.com.
If you're going to design a championship jersey, you may as well design a full uniform set (at least, that's how it happened in the OIL). Again, you can find good designers in the SportsLogos.net forums. For uniforms, the OIL uses Andrew Krause Design and Michael Taylor Design.
This is veering dangerously close to the league settings I promised not to get into. But it's such a simple solution to schedule-making that I feel it should be shared. As a commissioner, the thing I hated most come playoff time was a manager complaining that he only missed the playoffs because he had to play "X" twice while "Y" didn't play "X" at all and instead got to play a horrible team like "Z" twice. That is one reason we have a 14-team league with a 13-week schedule. Everyone plays every other team exactly once. That's as fair as you can possibly make it.
But we all know using the drag-and-drop schedule editor in many platforms is a slow, painful process. Luckily, FootballGuys.com has a free custom schedule maker. Whether you want to go for the scheduling nirvana of a 14-team league or want to have a 12-team league with multiple divisions, their schedule maker will give you a painless way to create your perfect schedule.
This is where having team uniforms can really make it fun. If your league has been around a while, you can probably identify some natural rivalries. Week 13 in the OIL is Rivalry Week. The commissioner keeps track of managers' records against their rivals on each manager's team page. As an added benefit, it encourages managers who have no chance at the playoffs to continue trying late into the season. It's been a hit in the OIL.
In order to schedule the rivalry games in the final week of the season:
Photoshopping Players into Fantasy Uniforms
It's not a necessity, but Photoshopping players into their fantasy team uniforms can add an element of realism to your league. If you're not very good at Photoshop, you can find people who are at the /r/picrequests subreddit.
Note: Because we are altering the original image and not using it for any commercial purpose, the OIL considers any OIL in Action image to fall squarely within protected "Fair Use."
It is surprisingly easy to build a league website. The OIL's site is built using Weebly.com, which has a free option and a Pro option for $50/year. SquareSpace.com is also a good option. It runs $8 a month (or $96/year). You can even build one for free if you don't mind using a Weebly or SquareSpace sub domain.
A league website supplements your league page during the season and serves as an archive for your league year-round. The OIL uses its website to keep track of all-time manager records and archive each season's draft and playoff results. Each manager has his own team page updated each season as well.
Chronicling Your League's History
The OIL is unique in that its members spent a year in Iraq together. Accordingly, we are very close-knit and have a lot of non-fantasy stories. So this next suggestion may seem a little extreme, but it works for us.
A couple years ago, my wife and I participated in StoryCorps, which is the largest ongoing oral history project in the U.S. After participating, I realized how easy it is to tell a story by simply transcribing a conversation. That's how the Book of OIL began. As a league, we have a collective conversation about each season, and it's transcribed for posterity.
So, how's that? Did I miss anything? If there's something you'd like to us to cover, let us know in the comments.