John Saunders, a celebrated ESPN sportscaster for three decades, has died at the age of 61, according to a Wednesday report from the sports network. Saunders was a well-known face on ESPN, hosting studio programming as well as play-by-play programming. He covered college football, basketball and hockey and anchored SportsCenter. His cause of death was not immediately clear.
He is survived by his wife Wanda and two daughters, Aleah and Jenna.
“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,” ESPN wrote in a statement. “Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this extremely difficult time.”
Saunders joined ESPN in 1986, according to his bio, and has hosted shows on ABC as well. He was well known for Saturday studio coverage of college football, college basketball and for hosting The Sports Reporters, a Sunday roundtable of sports reporters. Later in his career, he co-hosted NFL highlight segments that aired Sundays during SportsCenter during football season.
Before landing at ESPN, Saunders, a native Canadian, bounce around at local stations in the country. He worked in Toronto as the main sports anchor for CITY-TV from 1980 to 1982, was a news director for CKNS Radio in Espanola Ontario in 1978 and worked for ATV News in New Brunswick from 1979 to 1980.
He also called play-by-play for the Toronto Raptors from 1995 to 2001.
Beyond sports, Saunders was a founding member and served on the board of directors of The V Foundation for Cancer Research. He was known for being actively involved in many fundraising events and initiatives sparked by the foundation.
Many of his colleagues took to Twitter to mourn his death, including the below sampling of tweets.
This is developing story.