|Type of site||Sports simulation|
|Owner||Fox Sports Digital Media|
|Created by||Tarek Kamil|
|Alexa rank||37,689 (December 2013[update])|
WhatIfSports.com is a company based in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S. that specializes in online sports simulations and fantasy-style games. It uses custom sports simulators to allow users to match teams from any era and generate a complete play-by-play of a game. Simulations can be run for free, or users can build custom teams consisting of players from any generation and join leagues with their friends for a fee. Results are based on each player's combined stats from previous seasons.
- 1 Company history
- 2 Games
- 3 Forums and other features
- 4 Controversy
- 5 Notes and references
- 6 External links
Founded in 1999, WhatIfSports was a side project of a couple of sports fans working for a computer consulting company in Cincinnati, Ohio. After numerous lunchroom debates on which great historical baseball teams would win if they could play each other, a few guys decided to up the ante. At the height of the dot-com bubble, they decided to undertake the challenge of trying to write an advanced baseball simulator (along the lines of Strat-O-Matic and APBA) that would work on a website.
An early version of the baseball simulator was up and running by fall of 1999. The next project was college basketball. Just in time for March Madness in spring of 2000, the college basketball simulator went online. This caught the attention of the local media when the simulator said the University of Cincinnati would have made the Final Four if one of its players, power forward Kenyon Martin, had not broken his leg.
While continuing with the consulting work to pay the bills, WhatIfSports remained a side project until the company landed its first major license with Major League Baseball in 2001. The license put the baseball simulator on MLB.com and put WhatIfSports on the map.
In the years that followed, the WhatIfSports project began earning more money than the computer consulting work, as more and more companies began trimming back their information technology budgets. In 2003 WhatIfSports was officially incorporated; a growing staff was able to introduce new simulators for football, NBA basketball, hockey, and stock car racing.
After two more years of continuous growth, WhatIfSports was acquired by Fox Interactive Media in the fall of 2005. This was around the same time Fox bought other properties such as MySpace, IGN and Scout.com.
WhatIfSports offers anyone a "test drive" of their simulators at no cost in a section called SimMatchUp. Users choose to play any two MLB baseball teams against each other going back to the 1885, NFL football teams back to 1941, NHL hockey teams back to 1917, NBA basketball teams back to 1950, and NCAA basketball teams dating back to different years depending on the team. All simulators produce complete box scores and full play-by-play.
For a fee varying between $8USD to $12.95USD depending on the sport, users can draft their own teams consisting of any player in MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL history and join leagues with other people. All leagues play full seasons (by today's standards) with playoffs. Complete stats are tracked for all players and teams.
Acting as manager and GM, users can assemble their own “Murderers’ Row” lineup with legends like Mickey Mantle, Ernie Banks, and Johnny Bench. With a 162-game season, users control features such as pitch count limits, line-up orders, pinch-hitters, trade and waiver transactions, and more.
The baseball simleague can offer the opportunity for World Series champions and losers to compete in a monthly tournament of champions based on salary cap used for the team. Each tournament winner receives $250USD in prizes.
SimLeague Basketball is an online basketball simulation game that puts the user in the dual role of GM and coach. One can build their own personal “Dream Team” with stars like Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird. An 82-game season presents many decisions to the user, such as setting depth charts, target minutes, defensive sets, double-teams, offensive tempo, dealing with player fatigue and more.
With a 16-game season, users have the option of building a running game with Barry Sanders and Walter Payton, an aerial attack with Joe Montana and Randy Moss, or a tenacious defense with the 1985 Chicago Bears. Users set depth charts, game plans, offensive and defensive settings, deal with player fatigue and more.
Users can create squads featuring Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull on the same line, or a defense of Bobby Orr and Denis Potvin with Bernie Parent in the net. An 82-game season presents decisions such as focusing on scoring or defense, which lines to use when, and what goalie to use for “Game 7.”
This game gives users a taste of what it's like to coach college basketball at an American university. The user takes over in Division III and can recruit players, hand out scholarships, control practices and coach games. The user tries to build a successful program to attract job offers from Division II and Division I schools. For most users, the ultimate goal is to get a Division I job and win the national title, although users can stay in lower divisions and build a dynasty there, as well.
This game simulates what it's like to coach college football. The simulation works much the same as Hoops Dynasty, with the user starting in Division III and trying to move up to higher divisions by building a successful program through recruiting, coaching and administration. Also, like Hoops Dynasty, there are users that stay in the lower divisions and build dynasties with their respective school.
Hardball Dynasty was introduced to the site in 2005. It gives users the ability to run a baseball franchise (from the major league level all the way down to rookie league) and have complete control over personnel decisions, lineups, pitch counts, etc. In essence, it is a more sophisticated version of the MLB simulation. It has a yearly draft with both foreign and U.S. players as well as user interaction via trades and a league trash-talk/message board. It is by far the most comprehensive and time-consuming game on the site and offers much that not even the baseball sim has at this point.
This game puts you in charge of a football club. You must build your squad by signing free-agents, upgrading your stadium to increase income, and negotiating transfer deals with other users. This is the most recently added game on the site and the only free dynasty.
Forums and other features
The site offers extensive user forums for each of the major sports, along with more general discussions and a section called "The Pit" for trash talk and more mature themes. Generally, the most active forum is Baseball (Sim Baseball and Hardball Dynasty, along with MLB talk.) On August 14, 2007 a soccer forum was introduced to talk about all things soccer.
The site also offers a section called "Beyond the Box Score" which are a series of columns which contain weekly NFL projections on games and individual fantasy football performers, as well as explorations of various "what if" scenarios. In March 2008, the simulator correctly predicted seven of the eight elite 8 teams, all Final Four teams, the runner-up Memphis and champion Kansas. 
For a short period of time the site had a Legends Chat. Well-known coaches or athletes would receive questions from users. The questions were screened and had to be submitted the day before the chat. There were only seven of these chats: Davey Johnson (11/28/06), Dan Reeves (12/5/06), Bobby Cremins (12/19/06), Jack Lengyel (1/23/07), John Robinson (2/1/07), John Chaney (2/14/07) and Jud Heathcote (3/7/07).
Fox's acquisition of the site was controversial with some users. There was also a dispute involving copyright issues about Major League Baseball logos and player names and likenesses. When a lawsuit was filed by CDM Fantasy Sports against the Major League Baseball Players Association and Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLB's new media unit) over the use of such material, WhatIfSports eliminated MLB logos and player names and images, substituting generic descriptions of the players. This move generated some controversy with users, though the player names were restored after a federal court decision in favor of CDM Fantasy Sports. The logos have not yet been restored due to continuing copyright concerns.
Notes and references
- "Whatifsports.com Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
- Beyond the Box Score: Bracket Previewed
- Whatifsports.com website
- Whatifsports.com Beyond the Boxscore column
- Whatifsports.com MySpace profile
- Bill Simmons' article on ESPN.com
- Neal Pollack's article in New York Times Magazine
- Physorg.com story on WhatIfSports
- Press release on 2005 Webby award
- BurnsideWritersCollective.com story on WhatIfSports