Revered sports broadcaster Jim Simpson, who turned heads when he left NBC for rival upstart ESPN in 1979, has passed away at age 88 after a short illness.
Simpson called everything from college sports to professional hockey throughout his career and some of his former ESPN colleagues remembered him fondly.
“On Jim’s first visit to Bristol I met him at the airport and immediately experienced his warm personality. He brought tremendous credibility to ESPN in our early days, doing whatever was needed to help build the network. Jim was a television legend,” said ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen.
“Jim Simpson was a legend at NBC and brought a standard of excellence to ESPN that set the tone for so many to follow. I was honored he was assigned to work with me as I was just starting out. He had a tremendous influence on me and assisted me early in my career. He was special. Jim Simpson was as good as it gets,” added Simpson’s former broadcast partner and fellow legend in his own right Dick Vitale.
The best tribute, however, may have come from Bob Ley, who has been at ESPN since three days after its launch.
“Nearly 37 years ago, the broadcast industry was stunned with the news this tiny operation called ESPN had hired Jim Simpson of NBC Sports as its lead on-air personality,” Ley said. “Jim was already a titan in sports television – a veteran of numerous Olympics and World Series, and major sporting events. His arrival provided ESPN with a critical injection of credibility. If you’re not familiar with Jim’s body of work, Google it. It is remarkable. But what struck this 24 year old ‘colleague’ of Jim’s was the professionalism and class Jim brought to all his assignments. It left an indelible impression, along with the more important fact that, personally, this network star was a prince of a man. Jim Simpson passed away today at the age of 88. Friday night, the NFL Network is presenting Super Bowl One – the lost game. The sound track for that anticipated event is Jim Simpson’s radio call. From all of us here – especially those who worked with Jim, our thoughts and prayers to the extended Simpson family, and our thanks for our time with him.”
Needless to say, Simpson was a figure beloved by many, especially at ESPN, and will be greatly missed.
Campus Sports sends its condolences to the Simpson family.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to ESPN Front Row