RALEIGH, N.C. – O. Max Gardner would probably have to recuse himself from rooting for a winner this weekend. And, rest assured, the consummate politician would.
That’s because Gardner, the great Depression-era governor and leader of the “Shelby Dynasty” of North Carolina politics, was a pioneering football player and athlete at the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts at the turn of the 20th century. He would never pull against his alma mater.
But he is also half the namesake of Gardner-Webb University, the Boiling Springs, N.C., institution that will send its football team to play against NC State Saturday evening at Carter-Finley Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.
It may well be the first time in the history of college football that a team has faced an opponent that is named after one of its former players. More than 60 of the 246 Division I football schools (121 Football Bowl Series and 125 Football Championship Series) are named for individuals, but Gardner is believed to be the only one who played college football. …