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ESPN Remembers Former Communications VP Rob Tobias

One of ESPN's architects, who retired in 2015 after 32 years, died today following a fight with brain cancer. An appreciation; longtime friend Charley Steiner also shares his thoughts on Rob in a sidebar below

Rob Tobias (Joe Faraoni/ESPN)

Nearly five years ago we posted this note, celebrating the retirement of a great friend, a fabulous father, a passionate sports fan, an architect of ESPN from the very early days of our existence.

Today we are back with sad news. Rob Tobias, who fought brain cancer as courageously and as strongly as anyone could, died today, at home, surrounded by family.

Many of you who read this have never met Rob. But his contributions to this place, and more importantly to the people of this place who work hard every day to bring you the sports you love, have impacted you in some way. His DNA is embedded in ESPN after 32 years walking this campus.

Rob was exceptionally creative, very funny and warm, and he was a mentor to many. He hated to be the center of attention. He was much more comfortable shining a light on others.

Today, he is the center of attention, one last time. He was 60 years old, and his family, his ESPN family and many in the sports media industry that he touched along the way, will miss him greatly.

Chris LaPlaca salutes Rob Tobias in The Sports Business Journal.

Charley Steiner On Rob Tobias: “He was a sweet, decent and funny man who was really, really good at what he did.”


Former SportsCenter anchor Charley Steiner (L) shares the desk with Rob Tobias. (ESPN)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Upon learning that his friend and former ESPN colleague Rob Tobias had died, former SportsCenter anchor and longtime voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers Charley Steiner shared his thoughts about Tobias with Front Row.

When we “old timers” look back on “the good old days” of ESPN and SportsCenter, it is (at least for me), the people who were intimately involved in its growth and maturation that I remember most and best. We were certainly surrounded by enormously talented on air and production people, who received a disproportionate amount of attention. But, it was off-the-air people who were the real pillars and the foundation of what ESPN was and what it would become.

Rob Tobias was such a pillar. In a world where egos were plentiful, Rob had the gift of standing in the wings with a bemused smile on his face, arms folded across his chest, watching the talent be talent, encouraging them when needed and occasionally cleaning up a mess that they left behind. Rob, with a free and easy laugh, promoted us as individuals, and ESPN into what we and it would become. He was a sweet, decent and funny man who was really, really good at what he did.

Two years ago, when I invited him to come to (my alma mater) Bradley University to speak on a panel about sports media relations, I never got a chance to finish the request. He simply said . . . .”When do you want me?”

He spent extra time with the students and became one of the most popular guests we’ve ever had. He didn’t have to do that. But that was Rob.

I last saw Rob (and his fiancee Bridget) two months ago in New York. He was in good spirits and typically great humor.But he knew what he was facing. In recent days, his condition dramatically worsened. And so I thought I was prepared for today’s news. I was wrong.

For those of us who knew Rob, I’m probably not saying anything you don’t already know.

For those of you who didn’t, think about him, ask about him, it will do you some good. On that I am right.

– Charley Steiner

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