With the advent of online dynasties in NCAA 2009, prospective leagues have a few decisions to make about how to structure their leagues. These decisions include which conference(s) to use, how the team selection process will work, and what the general aim of the league will be.
The reason these questions should be asked is for the greater good of the potential league. An observation I’ve made over the years is that people love to start something, but don't always put in the planning required to finish it. It’s really easy to say “hey, let’s start a league.” It’s another thing to create a lasting, enjoyable experience that has some staying power. The latter is much more likely if some of these issues are analyzed and planned out beforehand.
The Character of the League
Here’s the very first issue to address…. League rules and overall theme. Will the league be a “no-cheese” league, or an anything goes league? If not either, then what other style are you going to pick? If the league founder(s) clearly state these goals, chances are the players that aren’t wanted in the league will weed themselves out.
If you have been a member on the Operation Sports or MaddenMania forums for quite awhile, you probably have a pretty good feel for many of the members on the message boards. One of the primary benefits as a gamer of being involved in forums like ours is that you always have people to play these games online with. If the goal of the league is clearly stated and there’s a pool of people to choose from that you know something about, chances are good the league will get off on the right foot.
In my opinion, it’s important to have a “commissioner” of the league that can be a fair, partial decider of key issues. This should be the same person that is responsible for “moving” the dynasty along. Previews of the game have indicated that one player will have the ability to simulate the week through even if user games haven’t been played.
Therefore, this person should be responsible enough to set the deadlines and keep those deadlines for the benefit of all the players (gamers aren’t the most patient bunch) while occasionally giving some leeway to a reschedule if it won’t set the thing back too far. It will – at times – be like walking a tightrope, so this person should be trusted by the majority of those involved with the league and be willing to stick to his or her guns. At the same time this person should always be open to suggestion, because dictatorial tendencies will probably kill a league just about as quick as anything else could.
One would surmise that the majority of well-run leagues will be centered on a conference or a select group of conferences. If players choose teams randomly throughout the nation, it could work, but it might end up being a little disjointed. It’s all personal preference of course, but here are some guidelines to think about.
One conference or multiple conferences? This could probably boil down to a combination of three things.
- How much time do the members in your league have to play?
- How quickly do the members in your league want the seasons to progress?
- How often do the members in your league want to play each other?
If you have a group of guys that are SEC junkies and really couldn’t care less about the rest of the nation, it’s a pretty simple selection. Otherwise, the factors above should take precedence. If you have 10-12 players in one conference, you’re looking at a ton of user versus user games. This will lead to seasons that take quite a long time to complete, because only the most flexible of groups could play a full season of games against other players very quickly.
On the other hand, if you have 3 teams in four conferences, or 4 teams in three conferences, you can mandate that each team has to play a certain number of “versus” games per season. This way the majority of games would be games that the player could play whenever they have the time - at three in the morning, if necessary. This will keep leagues moving along quickly.
The second question above is a key one. Take me, for instance. I’m a dynasty nut, and often get past 2015 in my dynasties (a less impressive feat every year, surely one to sneeze at by the time NCAA 2014 rolls around). I don’t want each season to take two months, because by the time NCAA 2010 rolls around I likely won’t even have a full team of my own recruits! Other people actually prefer to play with the original players and lose interest once the recruits start permeating the rosters. Make these decisions accordingly to what the league members want to get out of their time commitment.
Another item to consider is the quality of the teams in the conference. In just about every conference there are good teams and bad teams, but the difference between the top teams is more pronounced in certain conferences (Big 12) than others (ACC). In fact, the ACC is my pick as the most balanced conference. The good teams from last year lose a lot, while the bad teams aren’t totally bereft of talent. Miami, for instance, had the number one recruiting class according to ESPN.com, so they should have plenty of young talent to help erase last year’s nightmare of a season before too long.
Getting creative might be the best way to go about it. Take the most heated rivalries from across the nation and fill those spots with true fans of those teams, and you could have a real barnburner of a league that moves very quickly. Imagine 10 guys in a league controlling Ohio State/Michigan, Auburn/Alabama, Oklahoma/Texas, USC/Notre Dame, FSU/Miami. Nuts, right? To a guy like me, the most appealing single-conference league would be one in a smaller conference like the MAC.
If you’re doing a three, four, (or even two) conference setup, it should be fine to just let guys claim teams as they sign up. But don’t take this issue lightly, especially if it’s a single-conference league.
Let’s say a seemingly nice individual named Kornstar decides to join your NCAA league. For this to happen you’re likely not looking at a sim league to begin with… But if you let him take Texas in your Big 12 online dynasty, you’re asking for trouble because the entire online dynasty will suddenly be about as one-sided as a solo team dynasty. You know, those dynasties where guys who take over the Idaho Vandals and are winning National Championships in year 3?
In a single-conference setup, strongly consider doing a straight up draft, basing the order of selection loosely on the skill level of the players in the league. This might not always be possible, as some guys refuse to play without their favorite team. Consider tossing these guys the comfort blanket to keep them involved and do the best thing for the league with the other guys.
Best luck to all the leagues that embark upon this first year of online dynasties.