Notre Dame, like Tiger Woods or Florida Evans’ downtrodden Good Times family unit has been on a perpetual climb out of the gutter. Every time they tease a climb out the confines of their mediocrity canyon, a loose rock sends them down a few notches or an avalanche tramples on any hope of reaching the apogee of college football. Notre Dame thought they were about to re-plant their flag at the summit after reaching the national championship game in 2012, before Everett Golson’s dismissal for a violation of the university’s academic dishonesty policy put a dent in those aspirations.

An independent probe into academic misconduct among four football players could be the death knell on their 2014 season before it begins. Notre Dame could get rocked.

The ongoing Golden Domer scandal could further tarnish the glow of gold worse than a Trinidad James video shoot. For the second season opener in a row, Rice’s opponent is receiving negative press for the actions of student-athletes. Last season, it was Johnny Manziel’s suspension following an investigation into his potential violation of NCAA bylaws that drew the media scrutiny.

While Notre Dame conducts an academic probe into football players DaVaris Daniels, Kendall Moore, KeiVarae Russell, and Ishaq Williams will be held out of games and practices, but it’s possible that this could eventually lead to disciplinary action taken towards as many as 22 players--just enough for a starting offense and defense.

This isn’t the first signs of turmoil seeping from the hallowed grounds of the Fighting Irish athletic department.

Notre Dame considers itself above the fray of the vices their peers at elite programs succumb to, but the latest crisis is a reminder that their student-athletes are just like the ones at just about every DI school across the nation. Okay, maybe not Oklahoma which is in the midst of an unprecedented streak of debauchery, but the question is whether their administration can remain above reproach as well.

If Rudy can commit white collar crime though, then nothing is sacred.

There’s a sentiment that borders on glee when Notre Dame gets into trouble. The entire college football universe gawks and demands the death penalty.

Accountability is being demanded from Brian Kelly, but here’s the problem. This could be bigger than just Kelly.

At first glance, this is more like the wave that got salt in Harvard basketball’s eyes than the tsunami consuming UNC or Miami’s athletic departments in recent years.

Golson being named the starter officially by Kelly just before this scandal broke through Notre Dame’s tender flesh only exacerbates the scrutiny of his return. The Fighting Irish quarterback has already been publicly shamed and humiliated by the academic penalty he incurred during last season. However, this is just another reason for his mistakes to be re-visited by the media and ruthless opposing fans.

The loss of KeiVarae Russell could have the Irish flinching in agony once they peek at the wide outs on their schedule for 2014.

The Notre Dame secondary had been drawing rave reviews and Russell was expected to be the headliner while Williams was slated to start at defensive end after transitioning from the backup linebacker position.

Moore wasn’t expected to make much of an impact in his fifth and final season as a scholarship player, but it appears he may negatively contribute in a way he never anticipated.

For DaVars Daniels, this will be the second time he’s been embroiled in an academic maelstrom after getting suspended for the spring semester for failing to keep up a minimum grade point average.

The senior wide out was also the most experienced wide out on a depleted unit by a Grand Canyon-sized gap.

Four players does not equal a lack of institutional control, however, a deeper excavation could produce the skeletal structure of a scandal that spans several sports and years.

Notre Dame basketball’s leading scorer, Jerian Grant was recently readmitted this summer after getting suspended in mid-December for an unspecified academic violation that Grant described as “a lack of good judgment.”

This entire investigation could turn out scraps, but the scrutiny is merited. With the exposure that comes from their $15 million annual NBC partnership that includes its own blog dedicated to Notre Dame sports on NBCSports.com, comes the notoriety when they fall short of lofty expectations.

Many will assume the worst until proven otherwise. What appears to be a trickle on a halcyonic campus could breach the dam and leave Kelly swimming upstream against a ravine if this investigation cripples his program.