NCAA Basketball: Detroit at SyracuseThe sports world received unexpectedly tragic news Wednesday morning.

ESPN’s John Saunders, a mainstay on the network since he joined in 1986, has died at the age of 61, ESPN’s Hannah Storm announced Wednesday on “SportsCenter.” No cause of death was given, but it’s believed Saunders’ passing was unexpected.

Saunders, a Canada native, is best known for his many years as the steady host of “The Sports Reporters,” the network’s weekend debate show. He also did play-by-play for college basketball games beginning in 1990 and was heavily involved in the network’s college football coverage, hosting the postgame trophy presentation for the Division I national championship game.

Saunders also was a founding member of The V Foundation for Cancer Research, which has raised millions since the death of NC State basketball coach Jim Valvano.

Storm paid tribute to Saunders on Wednesday with a touching on-air tribute.

Saunders’ sudden passing also prompted an outpouring of grief on social media from his colleagues and contemporaries.

Thumbnail photo via Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports Images