Saunders, a Canada native, joined ESPN in 1986 and has been one of the faces of the network, helming its college football studio show that aired on ABC and hosting “The Sports Reporters,” its journalist roundtable that has been a Sunday-morning staple for years. He also hosted “SportsCenter” and the network’s college basketball and Stanley Cup finals coverage.
“John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades,” ESPN President John Skipper said 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.”
The remembrances started pouring in almost immediately following the announcement of his death. Nearly everyone who worked with Saunders, it seems, remembers him fondly.
John Saunders worked at ESPN since 1986. He was a founding board member of V Foundation. He hosted Sports Reporters. He was 61 and beloved.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 10, 2016
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of John Saunders. Rest in peace.— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) August 10, 2016
One of the giants of sports and a good friend John Saunders died today. I just saw John a month ago so I'm totally shocked and saddened.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) August 10, 2016
John Saunders was a better person than a host, which is saying something. Classy. Professional. I can't even describe his impact on me.— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) August 10, 2016
I will miss my friend John Saunders. Talented. Generous. Kind. Too young.— Jeremy Schaap (@JeremySchaap) August 10, 2016
RIP John Saunders. Thanks for being a mentor and class act. I will miss you dearly.— Jalen Rose (@JalenRose) August 10, 2016