Longtime ESPN Host John Saunders Dead At Age 61

John Saunders, one of the familiar on-air faces of ESPN for nearly 30 years, has died. He was 61.

Saunders hosted studio and play-by-play programming. He covered college football, basketball and the NHL for the network, in addition to anchoring SportsCenter.

He was also host of The Sports Reporters.

Dick Vitale, a longtime colleague of Saunders, said his friend “represented everything that was good in a human being.”

“He was all about family and helping people,” Vitale said. “He was as good as it gets and he had deep loyalty and love for others. His work with The V Foundation was so special — he loved Jimmy V and poured his heart and soul into the cause. He was always willing to share and give, and he played a vital role in the success of helping so many. I can’t believe this stunning and horrible news. He will be forever in our thoughts.”

Chris Berman, who worked with Saunders during his entire 30 years at ESPN, said it was easy for anyone to relate to his former colleague.

“John Saunders was our friend, and he was your friend. You were immediately comfortable with John in 30 seconds,” Berman said. “I was fortunate enough to be comfortable with him for 30 years. We knew him for his understated demeanor and understated smile, but we also knew him for his firm commitment to getting things right and treating people right. John was old school, even Old World. Maybe because he was Canadian. Maybe because he was John.

“Professionally he was always willing to be out of the limelight, but make no mistake. With John Saunders, you knew you were in special company. His mark on ESPN is indelible. His mark on all of us even more so.”