Shortly after the 1914 season, the University Football Club withdrew from the VFL. University had become very uncompetitive, having finished last four years in a row and having lost its last 51 games; this was in large part because its players' primary focus was on their studies rather than football, particularly during mid-year examinations; and, because in the seven years since University's admission in 1908, player payments in the VFL had become common and accepted, but the University club had by choice remained strictly amateur. The club recognised that it could never again be competitive or viable in an increasingly professional VFL if it wished to remain as an amateur club drawing solely from university students, so it chose to withdraw from the VFL and to continue to play amateur football in the Metropolitan Association. Although the two events coincided, the onset of World War I – which at this stage had started only two months earlier and was not yet expected to escalate to the extent it did – was not given as a contributing factor in University's decision.
University players who wished to continue playing in the VFL were all cleared to Melbourne, through an informal arrangement beneficial to both clubs; University wished to see its best players playing together in the same VFL club to retain the strength of its own team for intervarsity competition; and Melbourne, which had struggled for a number of years with its lack of a natural recruiting district (formal zoning was not introduced until the following year), now had exclusive access to a valuable recruiting avenue.
As a consequence of University's withdrawal, the VFL was reduced from ten to nine clubs; this introduced a bye into the weekly fixture for the first time.
In 1915, the VFL competition consisted of nine teams of 18 on-the-field players each, with no "reserves", although any of the 18 players who had left the playing field for any reason could later resume their place on the field at any time during the match.
Each team played each other twice in a home-and-away season of 18 rounds (i.e., 16 matches and 2 byes).
Once the 18 round home-and-away season had finished, the 1915 VFL Premiers were determined by the specific format and conventions of the amended "Argus system".
All of the 1915 finals were played at the MCG so the home team in the Semi Finals and Preliminary Final is purely the higher ranked team from the ladder but in the Grand Final the home team was the team that won the Preliminary Final.
Prior to the season, VFL delegates voted in favour of rule changes to bring the game closer to a hybridisation of Australian rules football and rugby league: specifically the addition of a crossbar to the goal posts over which goals were to be kicked, disallowing forward handpasses, and rules to allow stronger rugby-style tackling between the shoulders and the hips. The rules could not come into immediate effect as they required approval at a vote of Australasian Football Council delegates, and this vote never took place due to the war, so none of these changes were ever implemented.
On 12 March 1915, responding to intense public pressure, a motion was put to a VFL meeting (proposed by the Geelong delegate, seconded by the Melbourne delegate) to suspend the VFL competition for the entire season (in March 1915, nobody expected the war to last for as long as it did). The votes were Geelong, Melbourne, Essendon, St Kilda, and South Melbourne "for", and the inner-Melbourne clubs of Carlton, Fitzroy, Collingwood, and Richmond "against". In the absence of the required three-quarters majority, the motion was lost.
At the instigation of the SAFL, interstate matches were suspended.
Maplestone, M., Flying Higher: History of the Essendon Football Club 1872-1996, Essendon Football Club, (Melbourne), 1996. ISBN 0-9591740-2-8
Rogers, S. & Brown, A., Every Game Ever Played: VFL/AFL Results 1897-1997 (Sixth Edition), Viking Books, (Ringwood), 1998. ISBN 0-670-90809-6
Ross, J. (ed), 100 Years of Australian Football 1897-1996: The Complete Story of the AFL, All the Big Stories, All the Great Pictures, All the Champions, Every AFL Season Reported, Viking, (Ringwood), 1996. ISBN 0-670-86814-0