There will be no long farewell tour this time, but Mike Francesa is set to leave afternoon drive time on WFAN for a second time next month.
Francesa first told Newsday of his decision early Tuesday afternoon then filled in some details and motivations on his show, including a desire to spend more time with his three teenaged children – and more time in Florida in winter.
“It’s time for the next generation,” he said near the end of a nine-minute segment on the subject. “It’s time for the next group to come along.
“The best job there is in this town, I’ve had it for over 30 years, every day . . . It’s an incredible accomplishment to do that, and also it’s been my honor and joy to do it every day. I’ve loved it.”
Susan Larkin, regional president for Entercom, WFAN’s parent, confirmed Francesa’s departure from drive time but stressed he will have an ongoing place in the company.
Francesa is expected to have a regular show, but one shorter than his current one, on Radio.com, the digital arm of Entercom and a high priority for the company.
There also will be a role for him at WFAN itself. Francesa, 65, said that could mean anything from promotional appearances to interacting with sponsors to an on-air presence “here and there.”
“While we are still finalizing details, this is an exciting move to bring more of Mike’s iconic sports talk content to fans across broadcast and digital in new, engaging ways wherever and however loyal sports fans want it,” Larkin said in a statement.
While Francesa did not specify a departure date, the autumn ratings period ends on Dec. 4, so a logical guess is shortly thereafter, perhaps as soon as Dec. 6. But it will happen sometime that month.
He said he has an exclusive three-year contract with Entercom to have his content appear on Radio.com and WFAN.
Francesa first left the station on Dec. 15, 2017, but he returned on May 1, 2018, displacing the show that took his place, featuring Chris Carlin, Bart Scott and Maggie Gray.
On Oct. 22 of last year he said on the air that his return had been less comfortable than he had hoped, and that he might leave WFAN again to focus solely on his app.
His long-term status has been in doubt since then, and he has been working without a contract.
Francesa said he initially planned to leave in August, but Entercom executives asked him stay for another ratings book. He said they also offered him a long-term contract to remain in drive time, but that he declined.
“This allows me to be freed up to basically travel if I want or not be here in the wintertime, or be involved with my kids, who are all going to be in high school as of next year, which is very important for me,” he said.
“These are very important years for me as a father, and that’s important to me – very important. Maybe more so than a lot of people because I didn’t grow up with a father.”
Entercom purchased his app in September and put it on Radio.com, switching it from a subscription model to an advertising-based one.
It is not clear what WFAN will do to replace Francesa. Evan Roberts appears to be the strongest candidate to move into that slot from his longtime midday show.
If he is not joined by his partner, Joe Benigno, who could retire after 2020, another option might be Scott, whose contract expires at the end of this year and who has been in negotiations for a new one.
Francesa said he has not been involved in the succession plan and does not want to be.
With streaming data included, Francesa never has lost a full ratings book to ESPN New York’s Michael Kay, but for the first month of the autumn book Kay surpassed Francesa.
This now will be Kay’s last opportunity to win a full book from Francesa. The final numbers are due to be released on Dec. 23.
“I think that I’ve had this wonderful position for a very long time, but it’s time for somebody else to have it, it really is,” Francesa said.
He said he did not expect to come back to the station the first time, but did so “for a lot of reasons, which it doesn’t matter what they are now . . . I know that was a little strange, but there were some things going on behind the scenes that aren’t important now.”
Francesa said he will not “dwell” on his departure from afternoon drive time in the coming weeks.
“I did this once before and we went through a whole retirement thing,” he said. “So we’re not going to do that again.”
Mike Francesa helped revolutionized sports talk radio at WFAN with Chris "Mad Dog" Russo. Nine years since they split up, Francesa remains the top-rated host in New York. After 30 years at WFAN, 2017 is his last. Watch his final year unfold as Francesa's fans, colleagues and athletes from the New York area spoke about what it will be like to no longer have this icon on the air.