Long-time ESPN host and play-by-play man John Saunders, who was one of sports television’s most respected voices handling a wide variety of high-profile assignments with great skill, has passed away at age 61. ESPN SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm reported the sad news live this morning.
“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. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this extremely difficult time.”
A former colleague and close friend of the late Jim Valvano, Saunders was a founding member and served on the board of directors for The V Foundation for Cancer Research, and was actively involved in many of the organization’s fundraising events and initiatives.
Saunders was an active mentor to young and aspiring journalists. Just last week, he spoke at the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) convention in Washington, D.C.
Saunders’ survivors include his wife, Wanda, and daughters Aleah and Jenna.