John Saunders, the longtime sportscaster and host of ESPN and ABC Sports, died at the age of 61 on Wednesday, Aug. 10 in New York. The cause of his death has not been disclosed.
Saunders was born on Feb. 2, 1955, in Ajax, Ontario in Canada. He attended Western Michigan University in the mid 1970’s where he was a prominent college hockey player.
Saunders entered the sports broadcasting world with jobs in Ajax, Toronto and Baltimore before landing with then-upstart cable sports network ESPN in 1986. As ESPN’s profile exponentially grew in the years thereafter, Saunders was a notable presence, being a weekly fixture in the studio for ABC/ESPN’s college football coverage on Saturdays each fall as well as becoming the network’s primary host of the Sunday morning round table talk show “The Sports Reporters,” beginning in 2001, taking over from the sudden passing of legendary reporter Dick Schaap.
Saunders’ time on ESPN also involved stints hosting “SportsCenter” and “Baseball Tonight” and covering major sports like the NHL (and its Stanley Cup playoffs and Finals) and college basketball.
Saunders was one of the founding members of the V Foundation for Cancer Research, named for Jim Valvano, a former North Carolina State basketball coach and ESPN broadcaster who died of cancer in 1993.
Saunders had a profound effect on the sports world and its personalities. Many of those in the industry took to Twitter in reaction to the news of his death, expressing their thoughts on the veteran broadcaster:
Hannah Storm announced Saunders’ passing on SportsCenter at 11 a.m. ET on Aug. 10, 2016:
John Saunders is survived by his wife, Wanda, and two daughters, Aleah and Jenna.