Mike Francesa was right!
The WFAN host insisted Wednesday that it should not have come as a surprise when he told Fox’s Katie Nolan that he would leave the station when his contract expires on Dec. 31, 2017. He said he had expressed such plans publicly before.
And, sure enough, here is what he said on the air on April 2, 2013, when he re-signed with WFAN’s parent company, CBS Radio:
“We will be staying around for what I would say will be the duration, let’s just put it that way; that will be it. When we’re done with this deal, we’ll be done, but it’s not for a long time.”
At the time Francesa’s remarks did not attract much attention, in part because of how far in the future it all seemed, in part because few people really believed he would walk away any decade soon.
That is what changed this week: His tone and blunt words on that podcast, which is to be posted in full on Thursday, seemed to convince most observers that he is serious this time.
The fun will be in the many months of lobbying, jockeying and speculation to come as station boss Mark Chernoff figures out how to fill what Francesa often has described as an unparalleled piece of sports media real estate.
The biggest splash would be to bring Francesa’s former partner, Chris Russo, home by taking him away from SiriusXM Satellite Radio. That sort of approach must be weighed against the appeal of building something entirely new, as Chernoff did when he replaced Don Imus with Craig Carton and Boomer Esiason in 2007.
The most frictionless plan would be to slide midday hosts Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno to the afternoon, but Benigno said with a laugh on the air Thursday that one of the few guarantees in life is that he and Roberts will not be chosen to succeed Francesa.
Another option might be to find a new partner for Roberts, who will be 34 when Francesa leaves, and switch him to afternoons while pairing Benigno with someone else in midday. Benigno turns 64 in 2017.
While the pressure is on Chernoff to maintain the ratings lead Francesa has fashioned over nearly three decades, the company at least will save money on salary.
Even if it takes two people to replace him, those two people combined figure to make significantly less than Francesa has in recent years.
In other Francesa news, he does not plan to visit the San Francisco area for Super Bowl 50, even though the game will be carried by CBS. Esiason and Carton will represent the station on site.