Club Sports: Contracted Independent Organizations?

April 06, 2011

Mark Fletcher
Associate Director of Athletics:
Director of Intramural Recreational Sports
University of Virginia

So what is the relationship of Club Sports to your University? Will you provide legal representation for them in a court of law? Is your department responsible for their unpaid hotel bills? Do you make the decision whether they choose to drink alcohol on a road trip?

These types of questions and the actual relationship of Club Sports to the University of Virginia and the Department of Intramural Recreational Sports were reviewed to determine a clarified understanding of the roles and responsibilities of all entities. The end result…….Contracted Independent Organizations.

Contracted Independent Organizations (CIOs) at the University of Virginia include Club Sports, five hundred plus student organizations, all fraternities and sororities, and even Foundations that have an important role in the life of the University. The basic concept is really quite simple; establish via a legal written contract the relationship between the University and the various Clubs. The Club has certain basic elements that they must fulfill in exchange for receiving benefits associated with this relationship. More specifically, the agreement illustrates the limitations on the University’s control of student organization activities and the benefits each CIO may receive.

Each CIO is responsible for creating their own constitution, electing their officers, selecting their coach/instructor, establishing their own bank account, meeting the membership requirements and applying to become a formal CIO AT the University of Virginia. An emphasis is placed on the word AT because these are not University of Virginia XYZ Clubs; they are XYZ Clubs AT the University of Virginia. A very important distinction. In return for fulfilling their obligations, a CIO may then become the recipient of certain benefits that may include allocation of monies from Student Council fees, access to University meeting and activity spaces, assistance via the publicity networks established in various University departments and advice on how to become a successful organization from University resources.

The University of Virginia prides itself on providing many opportunities for student self-government, leadership development, and the application of “real life” scenarios to the daily workings of student life. The Contracted Independent Organization concept places significant responsibility for decision-making, organizational applications, development of financial resources and shared responsibility on the members of the Club. The end result of this from a Departmental perspective is that the Intramural Recreational Sports Department moves from being a “watch dog” entity to the role of becoming the major resource in assisting each of these clubs to be successful. Coordinating and communicating the resources that are available at the University and in the community as it relates to insurance, fund raising, bank accounts, team-building activities, community service, all become an important aspect of the formula for success. The Clubs are able to develop skills that will be utilized as they leave the University environment and enter the work world. The University establishes a clearly defined relationship between all Clubs and the University.

The test of time? The Contracted Independent Organization relationship at the University of Virginia is now close to its twentieth anniversary. Its essence has provided the opportunity for all entities to be clear in the relationship, to be supportive of the learning aspects of the experience and to provide the maximum support for the success of each and every club. That’s a pretty solid combination.

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