By Timothy Hyland
Ask Daniel Orr how he can possibly justify the idea of a group of dentists from Nevada anointing themselves judges of the national champion team in college football, and he'll give you a pretty simple answer.
"Our opinion,” says Orr, “is just as relevant as anybody else’s.”
Yes, Orr is confident is in his opinion – and those of his colleagues at the Nevada Dental Association – when it comes to their beloved sport of college football.
He's also confident that the game he follows so passionately has some pretty serious flaws when it comes to the annual ritual of naming the best college football program in the country.
In Orr’s role as editor of the NDA’s flagship publication, the NDA Journal, he's using that platform – however small it may be – to address those flaws, one opinion, and one season, at a time.
"I'm an attorney as well as a dentist, and I have always been highly defense-oriented," says Orr, DDS, PhD, JD, MD. "I don't like seeing injustice in the world."
In the world of college football, Orr sees that injustice in the way the game chooses its national champion. Unlike most every other major sport in America, college football has, throughout its history, relied on a myriad and ever-changing series of polls, voting systems, computer formulas, and committees to determine its annual champion.
Since 2014, the path to the title has been determined by the College Football Playoff Committee, a group of 13 individuals who meet at season’s end to pick the four "best" teams in the land. Those four teams then battle it out in a mini-playoff, with the winner earning the national crown.
While the four-team format has been cheered by some as an important step forward, Orr says the formula remains fundamentally flawed. Deserving teams are still left on the outside looking in, he says, and last year provided more proof of precisely that.
When the CFP Committee met in early December to choose their four playoff participants, all of the teams they selected came from the so-called "Power Five" conferences – the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Clemson Tigers, the Georgia Bulldogs, and the Oklahoma Sooners. Each of those teams won playoff bids despite having at least one loss on their record, while one other Division I team – the University of Central Florida Golden Knights – was passed over. This occurred even though that the Knights had completed their 2017 season with an unblemished 12-0 record.
And while the Knights would go on to topple mighty Auburn in the Peach Bowl, finishing their season undefeated, it was Alabama that was ultimately crowned national champion. Except, that is, in the pages of the NDA Journal. Because there, on its cover, Orr and his committee named their own champion: The Golden Knights.
As NDA committee members explained in their pages:
It is well accepted that dentists are among the most trusted professionals to give advice in society. The honorable precepts of the ADA’s Professional Code of Conduct are second to none, and the code mandates that dentists put the welfare of society ahead of self-interest. Dentists are highly educated individuals who understand the concepts of logical and ethical cerebration. These attributes are absent in a program affiliated with higher education today, the faction that selects its Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I) championship, primarily on the basis of maximizing remuneration for ‘Blue Blood’ member programs, ignoring well-established, logical, and time-proven concepts (playoffs) in place to reward achievers in America.
For those reasons, and without apology to other FBS/D-1 teams jockeying for second place: The Nevada Dental Association Journal FBS National Championship Committee is pleased to announce its selection for college football’s 2017 National Champion, the only undefeated team in the nation: The University of Central Florida Knights (13-0).
While the NDA Journal has actually been awarding its own national crown since 2002 – the group has named its title honor after former LSU star Billy Cannon, who eventually became (of course) a dentist – it was their 2018 decision that ultimately caught the attention of the wider college football world.
UCF, which would go on to stage its own national championship parade, gratefully accepted the NDA award on Twitter, while various bloggers and college football followers seized on the NDA’s decision to speak to the sport’s continuing refusal simply to adopt a playoff.
To Orr, that represents a win in itself. After all, he created the NDA national championship for a purpose – fixing what he sees as a broken system – and he’s committed to keeping up that fight until he and his fellow Nevada dentists prevail.
“It’s just sad because no other sport does it this way, and everybody knows it,” Orr says. “If Division 2 and Division 3 can do it the right way, and if every sport in the world can do it the right way, why not college football?”
Author: Contributing writer Timothy Hyland has more than 20 years’ experience as a writer, reporter, and editor. His work has also appeared in Fast Company, Roll Call, Philadelphia Business Journal, and the Washington Times.