WFAN is in the center of turmoil once again. The focus of the chaos? The highly coveted afternoon drive timeslot and longtime FAN host Mike Francesa.
The New York Sports Pope gave two years notice to The Fan that he’d depart the station at the end of his contract in 2017. During that period WFAN looked at a number of potential options to occupy the drive time slot, eventually settling on Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott.
But after just five months on the job, Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports that WFAN is pushing the panic button and planning to bring back Francesa. The move clearly puts Carlin, Gray and Scott in an awkward spot, although initial indications are that the station would have them work a shorter show in between Joe & Evan and Francesa. The trio signed two-year deals upon joining the station.
The plan would be for Francesa to host a three or three-and-a-half-hour show, likely from 3p-6p or 3:30p-6:30p. This is assuming that both sides can get past their prior tensions. Francesa has publicly taken swipes at CMB and Boomer Esiason, and Boomer and his former partner Craig Carton also showed they weren’t afraid to return the favor.
The news began to gain momentum on Tuesday morning when Francesa offered a cryptic response to Newsday.
“This is for those who started this campaign in recent days,” said Francesa. “I didn’t decide to go back to WFAN until I was told I better not go back. For those behind it, that was the moment I decided to return.”
The Fan issued a statement to confirm that talks were ongoing between the two parties.
“WFAN confirms that we are in ongoing discussions with Mike Francesa about the possibility of him returning to the station. We also confirm that we are very proud of our current line-up at WFAN and that any potential future engagement with Mike will not result in any talent departures. As a matter of policy, we do not comment on pending negotiations and have nothing further to add at this moment.”
BSM reporter Brandon Contes points out that the biggest surprise in this story is that Francesa clearly had no post-WFAN plan. He spent two years discussing and celebrating his departure, making it clear he wasn’t retiring. However, he never mapped out his next venture. Stern, Russo, and Greenberg knew their next move, Francesa didn’t.
The about face also raises questions about WFAN’s management. After receiving a two year notice that Francesa would be leaving, the station couldn’t hire a show that it was willing to give even a six month commitment to. Were the options really that small? And what happens the next time Francesa leaves the station? Is a talent going to receive a fair shake or be shown the door six months later?