‘College Gameday’s Chris Fowler Tells Wild Story About the Time Burt Reynolds Tried to ‘Fight’ Him

by Chris Haney
(Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Out of all the celebrity fights over the years, we never saw this one coming. According to ESPN College Gameday host Chris Fowler, Hollywood legend Burt Reynolds wanted a piece of the broadcaster years back before he passed away. So how on earth did the Smokey and the Bandit star get into a feud with Fowler? The ESPN host shared the wild story himself during a recent appearance on The Paul Finebaum Show.

On Friday, Fowler joined Finebaum to talk all things college football leading up to Saturday’s stacked schedule. Chris Fowler made the appearance virtually from inside Florida State’s Doak S. Campbell Stadium. That’s what reminded him of the unexpected beef between himself and actor Burt Reynolds.

The Longest Yard star didn’t just portray a football player in the popular 1974 film. Reynolds famously played at FSU in the mid-1950s. In fact, Fowler’s co-host Lee Corso also played on that Seminoles team and was Reynolds’ roommate in college. Even though injuries cut Reynolds’ football career short, he maintained a close relationship with Florida State his entire life.

During one trip back to Tallahassee when Reynolds’ was in his 70s, he had a run-in with Chris Fowler. While on the FSU football field sidelines, the actor threatened to fight the ESPN broadcaster. During Fowler’s interview, he paused and asked if he could share his Burt Reynolds story. Thankfully, Paul Finebaum obliged and we now have this gem of a story to take in.

Chris Fowler Jokes That It Was a ‘Lose-Lose’ Situation When Burt Reynolds Wanted to Fight

“The most powerful memory was the time the late, great Burt Reynolds – FSU legend – wanted to fight me on that field down there,” Chris Fowler said as Paul Finebaum laughed. “Burt had become convinced that I had made a joke on Gameday about his divorce with Loni Anderson. Pure mistaken identity, we didn’t joke around about stuff like that on the show.”

The pair had another run-in at the ESPYs previous to their interaction at the FSU game. Fowler says the elderly actor “sucker-punched” him in the arm because he was mad at the comments about his ex-wife. However, Fowler swears it was a misunderstanding and that he never joked around about their split.

Fast forward to the FSU game, and Reynolds was on the sideline with Fowler’s co-hosts Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit. Evidently, Fowler got a little too close to the Hollywood star and Reynolds wanted to fight him.

“He gets up in my face and says, ‘You don’t want to fight a 70-year-old man right here on this field.’ And I said, ‘No, Burt, you’re right, I don’t.’ Because I’ve got two options, right, Paul?” Chris Fowler amusingly recalled. “Either we get to fighting and I win and I’m the villain. And then I’m gonna do my own version of The Longest Yard from the Florida state penitentiary. Or I get my a** kicked by a 70-year-old guy in front of 80,000 people. Those are two bad options. That’s what we call lose-lose.”

“So thankfully, I don’t know if it was Corso, but somebody calmed Burt down. I remained a Burt Reynolds fan to the day that he passed away. But that was just a weird memory, and it happened right down there,” Fowler concluded.