John Saunders Dead

ESPN's John Saunders Dead at 61

Longtime ESPN host John Saunders has died unexpectedly, the network confirmed on Tuesday. He was 61.

“John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades,” said John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, in a statement. “His wide range of accomplishments across numerous sports and championship events is among the most impressive this industry has ever seen. More importantly, John was a beloved and devoted family man who cared deeply about people and causes, as evidenced by his long-standing efforts as a passionate board member for The V Foundation for Cancer Research.

“He was one of the most significant and influential members of the ESPN family, as a colleague and mentor, and he will be sorely missed,” Skipper continued. “Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this extremely difficult time.”

Saunders joined ESPN in December 1986 as a SportsCenter anchor. His primary play-by-play beats included college football, basketball and the NH. He was also host of The Sports Reporters.

Saunders’ colleague Chris Mortensen expressed his sorrow on Twitter early Wednesday, writing, “The news of John Saunders’ death could not be more crushing. We all loved him dearly. We grieve. We will miss him. Can’t replace the man.”

ESPN’s Adam Scheffer, meanwhile, said he was “sickened and saddened” by the news.

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Saunders is survived by wife Wanda and daughters Aleah and Jenna.