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Chet Simmons, first president of ESPN, dies at 81

March 25, 2010 |  6:25 pm

Chester R. Simmons, 81, a pioneering sports broadcaster who served as president of ESPN during the company’s launch in 1979, has died. He was 81.

Simmons’ family said he died in Atlanta on Thursday.

Known as Chet, Simmons began in broadcasting in 1957 with Sports Programs Inc., which became ABC Sports. Simmons was involved in developing "Wide World of Sports" before becoming president of NBC Sports and later ESPN. He was also founding commissioner of the USFL.

ESPN and ABC Sports president George Bodenheimer credited Simmons with pioneering both sports broadcasting in the late 1950s and cable television in the late ’70s.

ESPN anchor Chris Berman says that what viewers see today "would have never been possible without him."

-- Associated Press