by Adam Shandler
For Fantasy Sports participants, the end of summer is a crossroads. Baseball is winding down, so owners scramble to make that decisive 7-player trade for Pedro. Fantasy Football is in its gearing-up phase with sports web sites dishing out the spam like an Army mess hall chef.
When it comes to college hoops, a fanatic must dig deep — no deeper — still deeper — into the bowels of the Internet to find anything remotely resembling a fantasy league. Or you just have to know someone who’s running a league. Fortunately, I do.
Dave Hall has a bit of a Clark Kent/Superman thing going on. The Plano, Texas resident spends his days in a corporate management training program. But by night (and other parts of the day for that matter), Hall is the commissioner of the College Basketball Fantasy League — or CBFL — a private, 28-team league that has grown over the course of the last six years.
I got a chance to talk to the commish about his league and ask him if there was any hope for my franchise, the Eastside Thundering Herd.
Adam Shandler: So Dave, you’re the commissioner of the CBFL, the College Basketball
Fantasy League. Are you more Stern, Tagliabue or…ahem…Bud Selig?
Dave Hall: I really don’t think I’m much like any of those guys. For one, I am half
their age and much better looking. I am a pretty laid back person and easy
to get along with. Most of the rule changes that are imposed in the CBFL
are usually voted upon by league members so I allow for everyone to voice
their opinions. This approach seems to be working for I have yet to have an
owners/player strike. I don’t believe Stern, Tagliabue or Selig can say the
AS: When did you come up with CBFL?
DH: The CBFL debuted in the fall of 1996. I was attending the University of
Kansas at the time, and for anyone who has ever gone to that school or even
visited, they will tell you that Kansas basketball is religion. Even prior
to stepping foot on the campus I was already a sports junkie, but it didn’t
take long to become a hardcore college basketball junkie once I saw Phog
AS: Why did you decide to start up a fantasy college basketball league?
DH: Information Technology and the Internet really started to take off in the
mid-90’s and I found myself frequenting a lot of the sports sites and
chatrooms on the Web. I got involved in ESPN’s fantasy leagues and had a
lot of fun with it, but no matter where I looked or searched on the Web I
could never find a college basketball fantasy league. No that wasn’t
because I was searching for adult sites, either. Anyhow, I decided to take it
upon myself to start a fantasy hoops league and that is how the CBFL was
created. I advertised the league on college basketball fan message boards
and initially rounded up about 12 teams for the first season. The 12 owners
came from all over the United States and a few of those 12 owners are still
members of the CBFL today.
AS: Tell me a little bit about the team “owners”. Would you call them nerds,
freaks, fanatics or just loyal college hoops fans?
DH: Well, I unfortunately have not had the pleasure of meeting any of the CBFL
owners other than Caroline “Lil Line” Sederquist. I knew Caroline before
the birth of the CBFL so I don’t know if she really counts. All I can
really base what I know about the owners are based on e-mails and Instant
Message conversations I’ve had with them. It seems that most of the owners
are aged in their 20’s with a few in their 30’s. Wake Forest has the most
alumni in the league with I believe 4 or 5 members. These guys seem to be
loyal college hoops fans for 3 of them have won CBFL titles. I would love
to be able to arrange a CBFL owners’ meeting sometime in which I could meet
everyone and better answer your question.
AS: A fantasy league is nothing without trash talk. I mean, what’s better
than a bunch of delusional young adults, who truly consider themselves
“owners”, bashing each other over email…am I right? How do CBFL
participants rate on the trash-o-meter?
DH: Adam, I couldn’t agree with you more. One of the reasons I decided to
create the CBFL was because I was hanging out in an ESPN college basketball
chatroom and I decided I had to do something to get all of the crazy
trash-talking people in there to a forum in which they could in some way
prove their knowledge of the game. During the 6 years of the CBFL there has
been some pretty good trash-talking. I’m always up for a good debate and I
believe the league has allowed those delusional owners to get up on their
soapboxes and have fun with it.
I have run into a few problems along the way
with certain owners deciding to get personal and turning the trash-talking
into personal attacks, but for the most part everything has been in good fun
and has made for good conversation and debate. I sometimes am thankful that the league is managed over e-mail because I think if certain owners got together on the court in person I may need to be calling Don King to arrange
a Pay-Per-View outing.
AS: There are some fantasy baseball leagues that are AL or NL only as a way
to regulate the amount of players eligible, among other reasons. There are
like, 30 conferences in NCAA Division I ball. That’s crazy! How do you
decide what conferences are eligible in your league?
DH: To keep things easy for myself so that I don’t have to gather stats from
guys who play for Northwest Sisters of the Blind, I decided to simplify
things and I take the teams from the top 13 conferences based on RPI/Sagarin
ratings. So far this has worked pretty well because the league is composed of
the teams that are on TV the majority of the time, as well as those
mid-major teams which allows for league members to follow and gain an added
interest in those players.
AS: Okay, Mr. Commish, what rules do you impose in the CBFL? Such as cost? Draft rules? Trades?
DH: The CBFL from day one until present has been a free league. I manage the
league purely as a hobby. I’ve dreamed about gaining the resources to
furnish the league into something similar to ESPN or CBSSportsline and
charging people money to participate and making it a full-time job, but
unfortunately I have not been able to gain those resources. However, if the
day ever comes in which that happens, I would still keep the CBFL composed
of the current 28 teams and keeping it free of cost for those loyal owners
who have been with me.
As far as the CBFL draft goes, the league has recently gone to a system in
which there are two separate drafts (spring and fall). I implemented the
Spring draft 2 seasons ago with hopes of creating added interest over the
summer and early Fall periods. I announce spring signings every few days
and allow league members to add their commentary. In years past the summer
has been a “dead” period and thus far the Spring draft seems to have kept
the CBFL with a little life during this time. As always the Fall draft is
held in October and is a 1-night event in which league owners gather into a
chatroom to learn the league signings. This event is always greatly
anticipated similar to Midnight Madness at many college campuses.
Trades you ask? Well trading in the CBFL is a pretty simple process. The
teams who are involved in the trade will communicate with each other
(usually via e-mail) and agree upon a trade. At that point, both teams will
e-mail myself to confirm the trade and then I will announce the transaction
to the league.
AS: You said earlier that fantasy college basketball leagues aren’t too prevalent. Why do you think that is?
DH: From my observations, no fantasy college leagues are prevalent in any sport,
not just basketball. I really don’t know why this is, but I would guess
that on a national level pro sports are more popular, and with their television coverage, pro sports
are more accessible. From the managerial standpoint, each pro sport has an official statistics service, and
most fantasy sports sites subscribe and their standings are updated automatically – it’s not very standardized
in collegiate sports. It may also have to do with the fact that collegiate athletes are not being paid
(at least to the public eye), and perceived complications with charging a league fee, though we may want to ask Mr.
Mike Riley of the CBFL’s Cretins.
AS: Have you seen any other college hoops fantasy leagues out there? How do
they stack up against yours?
DH: The first 4 seasons in which the CBFL existed I did not see any other
college hoops fantasy leagues. In the past 2 years I have seen a few out
there but in my opinion they don’t even come close to matching the CBFL.
Those leagues aren’t keeper leagues and don’t allow for head-to-head
AS: My squad, the Eastside Thundering Herd, went 4 and 6 last year. For an
expansion team that came in two weeks before the season, how did I rate in
the grand scheme of things?
DH: Adam, your team actually went 5-8.
AS: Whoops. My bad. Shows you how much I was paying attention.
DH: Who coached that team in the last 3 games?
AS: I have a pet orangutan named Lucy that does all my fantasy league management. If we don’t go .500 this year, I’m firing her for a more efficient simian. Anyway, 5-8 is not much better than 4-6.
DH: For an expansion team I would say that is a respectable record.
Playing in the mighty Big ACC (a CBFL division) can take a toll on the overall record as well. Here is a sign of hope, however. The UI Commandoes as an expansion team went 1-12. They are now the current CBFL champs. Hang in there buddy!
AS: Finally, do you think Mr. Rourke and Tattoo would be good fantasy
owners? They did run Fantasy Island, y’know.
DH: Although I don’t think Mr. Rourke and Tattoo would be good fantasy owners, I
do believe that they could do a better job than the aforementioned Mr.
Stern, Mr. Tagliabue, and Mr. Selig.
AS: Hear, hear.