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The National Collegiate Athletic Assoc­iation surprised the sports world in June with unusually harsh sanctions against the University of Southern California for improper benefits accepted by Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo, among other violations. The USC football team faces a two-year ban from bowl games, four years of probation, scholarship losses and the vacation of 14 victories, possibly including its 2004-05 national championship. The university has since appealed, asking the NCAA to reduce those sanctions.

The school is hardly the only sports powerhouse under scrutiny, with the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina, the University of Florida and the University of Connecticut among the Division I schools being investigated. In 2009, the NCAA’s enforcement staff processed 29 cases of major infractions — the most serious type of rules violations. The NCAA doesn’t disclose investigations, but the large number of high-profile probes that have become public means a steady stream of business for the small complement of attorneys who specialize in NCAA matters.

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