The death of John Saunders earlier this month was not only profoundly sad for everyone at ESPN, it also left several holes on the airwaves for the network to fill on short notice.
On Thursday, ESPN announced that Stan Verrett will take Saunders’ spot on the ABC college football set. Saunders held the position since 1992.
Here’s what Verrett said about his new gig, via an ESPN press release:
“John Saunders was a mentor and friend who helped me navigate my career at ESPN and was always ready with a kind word and timely advice,” said Verrett. “His easy manner and comfortable style welcomed college football fans every week for years on ESPN and ABC. He was a fantastic host.
“There’s a tremendous legacy there, and I am both humbled and excited to have the opportunity to add to it.”
Verrett is a respected and capable SportsCenter anchor, hosting the 1 a.m. show from Los Angeles and should be a good fit in this role, where he’ll work alongside Mark May and Mack Brown.
Obviously Verrett has big shoes to fill. Saunders was quietly capable every Saturday for nearly 25 seasons. Verrett will have almost no time to prepare for the new job before college football starts next weekend.
In other ESPN college football news, the network has hired former University of Miami and NFL linebacker Jonathan Vilma as an analyst. He’ll be reunited with Butch Davis, his former Miami coach, on ESPN2’s pre- and post-game set, with host Chris Cotter. Vilma won a national title at Miami and a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints but was (controversially) implicated in the Saints’ “Bountygate” scandal, for which he was suspended for five games.