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This is Year 26 of a pool that began inconspicously with 16 players chipping in $25 apiece for a total pot of $400. Last year's pot was $44,070. If you ask anyone who has been a part of Pigskin Mania for a lot of years, they're likely to tell you it devours their life throughout the football season...but in a good way.

Knowing that, there are some things you should know about the history of the game, how it works, some of its quirks, and why it does the things it does. Most of the information on this page is to make sure that as a newcomer, you understand what you're getting into, and what is expected of you.

History

Its time had come. The idea for Pigskin Mania came from a pool that Founding Father Dale Collins was involved in while working for the Broadway Southwest department store chain in Phoenix. It was routine for Dale, a childhood friend of Jay Gonzales, to call the Arizona Daily Star sports writers to get whatever information he could to make his picks. Jay was a Star sports writer at the time. Dale was a fan of the Ivy League, which was in the point spreads in those days, and would press Star sports writer Jon Wilner, a University of Pennsylvania alum, for info. After talking about it for several years, Jay and Dale decided to bring the pool to Tucson, Ariz. for the 1992 football season.

The early days. Year 1 had 16 players with its base of players coming from the Arizona Daily Star sports department. Jay had been a sports writer at the Star from 1985 to 1990, and ran the newsroom's office football pool during that time, which is where the nickname "The Poolmaster" was coined. Jay ditched his friends for a job in public relations in 1991, but remained close with his pals from the newsroom. Seven of the 16 players in Year 1 were Star sports writers and editors. Another group of players came from Woody's Sporting Goods, a well-known Tucson entity. The eastside store was managed by the late Ray Martinez who brought employees and customers into the pool. Four of the first 16 players came through that connection. The entry fee for the first two years was $25. But Jack Magruder, another Star sports writer, won the pool in Year 2 and only collected $100 because most of the pot had been paid out in perfect weeks. The entry fee went up to $40 in Year 3, and then $50 in Year 4 where it remained until the 2016 season.

Handwriting to the Internet. By today's standards, the early operaton of the pool was prehistoric. Picks were called in on the phone and handwritten onto a chart. Results were tabulated by hand with games marked as winners and losers using a red pen. Standings were typed up and sent out by fax. The pool moved slowly into the computer age. Picks were recorded on Excel spreadsheets. Results were tabulated on the spreadsheets and standings could be e-mailed and faxed. And then the light bulb came on for The Poolmaster in terms of Internet and computer capabilities. A web site was developed, including a page to submit picks, and the game exploded. The Excel workbook continued to evolve and today is an elaborate series of speadsheets with automation, links and formulas that allows us to manage the large number of entries and generate all the statistics and factoids that gives us something to talk about all through the football season. Pigskin Mania got its own URL at www.pigskinmania.net for the 2014 season.

More Exclusive than Augusta. Until we mastered computer and Internet technology, Pigskin Mania limited the number of players each year. We slowly expanded the first five years getting to 60 players. We raised the limit to 75 for the next five years. Then in Year 11 we allowed 100. Once the game was moved strictly to the Internet with all picks being submitted on an Internet form, the binders were off. By Year 15 there were 142 players and two years later we were up to 200. Last year, Year 25, there were 740 players from 37 states and the District of Columbia. Over the years, there have been a number of international entries with service members on deployment and others who just live outside the U.S. The pot was $44,070 last year. Total prize money for the life of the pool topped a quarter of a million dollars last year and is now at $258,840.

We're not in it for the money. Like all office pools, Pigskin Mania technically is considered illegal gambling. We have done extensive research on this issue and concluded that we can probably operate the pool without getting in trouble by making sure that no one involved in the operation makes a profit just for running it. We've always done that. In fact, over time we incurred some small expenses like postage for mailing winners' checks and The Poolmaster always absorbed those. More recently, it became necessary to have a web-hosting service and a domain name, which comes at a cost of about $330 per year. The Poolmaster absorbed the cost in 2014, but beginning in 2015, that cost was deducted from the pot and will continue to come out of entry fees in the future. Otherwise, every dollar is going to prize winners in the pool. There have been instances where winners have offered The Poolmaster a small share of their winnings to say thanks but we have had to decline to make sure we stay out of trouble. However, we will admit that we did accept a six-pack of premium beer once, and another thoughtful player brought a case of beer to The Poolmaster's tailgate party at an Arizona Wildcats game. But don't tell the FBI or the IRS.

No longer your grandmother's pool. Based on the stories we've heard over the years, somewhere along the line, Pigskin Mania became more than just another office pool. One family that has several members in PM sent a touching e-mail one year describing how their Thanksgiving was so much more enjoyable than in the past because the family members all had something in common to talk about that was meaningful to them. Another family told us about being evacuated from an approaching hurricane in Houston, and when they got to a hotel away from the storm one of the first things they did was ask the front desk clerk if they could use their computer to submit picks. We've had players go through family tragedies and illnesses and still not miss a week of picks. Players have been deployed with the military in Iraq and Europe and still been active players. We've received picks from Australia where Founding Father Greg Hansen was on assignment covering the Olympics. And if you're a member of Pigskin Mania and happen to be in the Washington Post newsroom, you're treated like a celebrity by the large group of players brought into the game by Founding Father Thomas Heleba, a former Star staffer now an editor at the Washington Post. We affectionately refer to his cohorts as "The Posties."

We remember. As you might expect, over time we've lost friends and fellow Maniacs who have been close to our hearts. Four Founding Fathers have passed away, most recently Ray Martinez, who passed away in April 2014 after a long battle with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Before the 2013 season, we lost Founding Father Nixon Low after a short and terrible battle with cancer. Guy Fimbres, another Founding Father and brother-in-law to The Poolmaster died of cancer in 2004, shortly after the end of the football season. But he didn't miss a week of picks after being diagnosed with the dreaded disease around Thanksgiving and being hospitalized for much of the time until he passed the following February. And Dan Grochowski, or Dr. Dan as we knew him, was the first Founding Father to pass away when he did so suddenly during the 2000 season. We donated his and his wife's entry fee to the Boys Club of Tucson in Dan's name.

We know it's a game. But then again, it's not. Winnings have been used to fund vacations, pay bills and to celebrate. Greg Hansen used his first-place prize from the 2000 season to pay for golf lessons that turned him from one of the worst golfers on the planet to a single-digit handicap. There's a hardcore group that is very passionate and protective of the game. We enjoy playing it. We enjoy talking about it. We even Tweet and Facebook about it. We hope you enjoy it for whatever it is for you.

 

Playing the Game

Be faithful. Your $60 investment relies on you to faithfully make your picks every weekend. Points are precious. Over the 25 years of the pool, it has taken an average of 61.0 points to win the pool with an average margin of victory of 1.69 points. The lowest winning score in the last 10 years has been 58.5. The margin of victory has been 1.0 or less 10 times. Don't waste the opportunity to score even one point. And don't expect to get a reminder about making your picks. You are on your own to get it done.

Use the net. Players are required to use the Picks Page page for submitting picks. Recording picks and calculating results are automated procedures that rely on use of the Picks Page. In a pinch, picks will be accepted by text, phone or other means when the Internet is not available to you, for instance if you are on vacation or get caught in a hurricane, as some players have had to do in past seasons. Internet and computer technology are driving the growth of the pool. Without it, the pool would not exist.

Don't be a deadbeat. Nothing is more frustrating to the other players in the pool than someone who quits in midseason. The chance to win back your entry fee each week by scoring a perfect week is supposed to keep you playing even after you're out of contention for season prize money. Don't give up the opportunity to win back your entry fee with a lucky week no matter how bad the season has gone for you.

Nothing personal. While Pigskin Mania is a chance to win money, most of all it's an opportunity to mock your friends about their lack of football knowledge. Sympathy is at a premium. If you do something stupid or if you just suck, you might see your name on the website. Among the most common "brain farts" is picking a game that has no line, picking a team that isn't playing, or thinking the spread is different than what it is. The likelihood you'll be publicly called out for that is high.

Get your picks in for everyone to see. The deadline for picks, as stated in the rules, is kickoff of any game you choose to play. However, having established the practice of posting all picks on the website, we ask you to submit your picks as early as possible so we can post everyone's picks on the site to track during the weekend. To avoid any type of influence on picks, the picks will not be posted until substantially all picks are in. So if you wait until Saturday night to submit your picks, you might be keeping everyone else from being able to track how the pool is going during the day. Also, on any Saturday when the Arizona Wildcats are playing at home, The Poolmaster spends most of the day involved in tailgating and going to the game. Therefore, picks might not be posted until late Saturday or even Sunday morning when the Wildcats are at home.

We're good but not that good. Most of our scoring and calculations is automated. We have a very elaborate Excel workbook that requires us to simply input game scores and then it calculates everything else, including all the results, standings and statistics we generate on the website. Despite being 95% automated, there is room for human error. So if you think we've made an error, please go through the game results and point spreads to determine if we really did make a mistake. If you still think we got it wrong, then send us an e-mail and state your case. If we made the error, we'll obviously fix it and update the results. But with the pool approaching 800 players, we ask that you first take the time to check it out thoroughly.

That's about all you need to know other than reading the Rules, which is very important. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to contact The Poolmaster, Jay Gonzales, by e-mail or phone. Contact information is on the Contact Us page.