Mike Francesa made it clear Wednesday that he meant what he said the day before about his departure from WFAN after 2017, and that there would be no turning back.
“It will not change, I promise you,” he said near the beginning of his WFAN show. “That’s the plan.”
Francesa said he was surprised that what he told Fox’s Katie Nolan on a podcast recorded Tuesday was a big story at all, insisting it was not news to those at the station or its parent company, CBS Radio.
But while Francesa, 61, strongly has hinted in the past – most recently in an interview with Newsday in December – that he will leave after his contract expires on Dec. 31, 2017, he never had worded it quite so bluntly before.
So he did so again on his show Wednesday to leave no doubts. He also insisted that this is not a negotiating ploy for another contract or that it is related to tensions between him and CBS Radio executives over the past couple of years.
“I have no issues with the company at all,” he said. “Whatever issues we had we’ve kind of straightened out.”
Francesa said he hopes to make his last year something special, including events that will take him out of the studio. But he insisted it is too soon to discuss such things with 23 1/2 months left in his term.
He did acknowledge that speculation on potential successors is inevitable, and healthy. The good news for WFAN director Mark Chernoff is that unlike in 2007, when he abruptly needed a new morning team after Don Imus was fired, there is plenty of time for a succession plan.
Assuming Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton remain in the morning, which they suggested on the air Wednesday that they will, one option is for Chernoff to move the midday team of Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts into Francesa’s spot.
Kimberly Jones, formerly of YES Network and currently of the NFL Network, has been a popular and frequent fill-in in various time slots and figures to be in the mix either for afternoons or middays.
Chris Carlin, a former WFAN producer and current SNY host, often has teamed with Jones in the past, to generally positive reviews.
Chernoff hit it big in replacing Imus with Esiason and Carton, but this time he faces perhaps an even more formidable challenge after Francesa, who largely has retained the ratings lead he had during his 19-year partnership with Chris Russo, which ended in 2008.
Speaking of Russo, Francesa’s newsmaking comments Tuesday came during an interview with Nolan to promote the “Mike and the Mad Dog” reunion show March 30. (The interview with Nolan made Francesa late for his own show.)
The two will be together Saturday at the third annual FrancesaCon event in Manhattan, fulfilling a promise Francesa made at last year’s show to try to bring his former partner, now a host at SiriusXM, along with him.
For now, Francesa said he mostly wants to continue doing the show as he always has, then call it a day and move on to other projects – likely ones that will not consume 27 1/2 live radio hours per week.
Come next January, he said, he will have more to say about his final months on the job.
“I want the last year to be special as we go through it, but it will be the last year,” he said. “That’s just the way it is and it’s not going to change . . . This is going to more of the same for the next two years and it will be the same until the last day and then, you know what, it’s been a heck of a run.”