Saying “it is time to return to WFAN,” Mike Francesa told Newsday on Tuesday that after four months away from the station he is ready for a comeback.
Francesa declined to elaborate, but a person at WFAN with knowledge of the plan said he likely would reclaim a portion of his old afternoon drive time slot, from 3 to 7 p.m. It is not clear when that would occur, but it should be soon, perhaps as early as next week.
Late Tuesday afternoon WFAN confirmed that it is having “ongoing discussions” with Francesa about possibly returning, and added in a statement, “We are very proud of our current lineup at WFAN and that any potential future engagement with Mike will not result in any talent departures.”
That was a reference to Francesa’s successors, Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott. They are believed to be under contract through 2019 and are expected to remain, but in a shorter and less visible shift than their current 2 to 6:30 p.m. show.
Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts could return to their old 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. slot with “CMB” being heard from 1 to 3 p.m.
WFAN’s vice president of programming Mark Chernoff did not respond to a request for comment.
Francesa alluded cryptically to a “campaign” to keep him from returning to the station that he left in December.
He declined to answer follow-up questions about that or any other aspect of what he said, which was that, “I have been working on a project with [the agency] CAA for months. That will be explained in the days ahead.
“This is for those who started this campaign in recent days. 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.
“I will do everything to work WFAN into an integral part of the project. It is time to return to WFAN.”
Francesa’s last 1 to 6:30 p.m. show was Dec. 15. He was succeeded as of Jan. 2 by Carlin, Gray and Scott, who in their first full ratings book lost narrowly to ESPN New York’s Michael Kay in ratings among men ages 25-54 from 3 to 6:30 p.m., when the shows overlap.
Carlin, a former “Mike and the Mad Dog” producer, has had a strained relationship with Francesa for years. After Francesa and his former partner, Chris Russo, jokingly and obliquely referenced WFAN’s struggles on the MLB Network show “High Heat” on March 28, Carlin texted both men with a strongly worded expression of displeasure.
Russo said on his SiriusXM Satellite Radio show Tuesday that Carlin was “out of line” and suggested Francesa was upset by the text.
Carlin, Gray and Scott opened their Tuesday show by addressing the matter and taking the high road, even though Carlin acknowledged the situation is “awkward, of course it is.”
“We’re going to be a big part of this radio station for a long time,” Carlin said. “This is a business. And you are talking about someone in Mike who was wildly successful for 30 years, so it only makes business sense to welcome somebody like that back into the fold.”
He added, “If Mike’s back in the afternoon, which it certainly looks like that’s going to be the case, it only makes the radio station stronger.”
Said Gray, “There’s room for all of us here, and all of our voices can be heard . . . We’re going to continue to be something different. That’s why they hired us in the first place, right? Fresh perspective, a little something different.”
Russo said on his show that Francesa discussed joining SiriusXM, including for a joint weekly appearance with Russo, but that no deal could be reached.
Francesa has been free to sign elsewhere since April 1. In March, Francesa told Newsday his departure from WFAN had been “very much an adjustment.”
He said, “Have there been times when I wish I had a forum and I wanted to express myself? Absolutely. Many, many times that has come up. I have to say, I miss it more than I thought I would.”