Softball America, a new umbrella organization developed for the purpose of uniting U.S. softball groups and individuals for the betterment of the sport, suffered a set-back in late December when the United States Olympic Committee's Hearing Panel granted ASA's "Motion to Dismiss" the Softball America challenge that had been filed in late September.

Voting in favor of the ASA motion 4-1, the hearing panel cited "that SAI has not set forth a factual basis for replacing ASA as the NGB." The decision mainly questioned whether the new organization was qualified to serve as the NGB. In addition, the hearing panel apparently wanted more supporting facts written in the challenge about why the ASA should be removed.

"We're very disappointed that a formal hearing to deliberate our challenge was not granted," said Softball America spokesperson and Executive Director Lacy Lee Baker. "We knew going in that the newness of the organization would be a detriment, but we felt that if granted a hearing, we could air our concerns about the ASA's failure to follow the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act, as well as other issues outlined in the challenge."

Although the dismissal can be challenged through arbitration, the Softball America board felt that even if an arbitrator ruled in favor of not dismissing the challenge, a formal hearing through the USOC still would have to be held. Considering that the ISF World Championships are only six months away and the 2004 Olympic Games are only two and a half years away, the board did not want to hurt the sport by dragging out a lengthy court battle so close to the events.

The board did determine that it would go forward with a complaint against the ASA, which first must be heard by an ASA-appointed panel, according to USOC-outlined procedures.

"We're looking forward to the continuing growth and operation of Softball America. We strongly believe that an umbrella organization uniting softball organizations and individuals involved in the sport is best for the governance of softball in this country. We will continue to work toward that goal," Baker said.

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