One of the biggest questions hovering over the sports media industry has been who would replace Mike Francesa when his contract ends at WFAN in New York later this year. Francesa is one of the titans of sports talk radio and has dominated the city of New York for thirty years. It’s fair to say that Francesa and longtime partner Chris Russo helped to pave the way for the growth of sports talk radio around the country.
Replacing someone like Francesa, who has been an institution in New York since the days when Phil Simms was playing quarterback for the Giants, is not going to be easy. And in the past several months, seemingly everyone in the metro area from Chris Simms to Chris Christie has been thrown out as possibilities.
WFAN has finally made their decision, and it will not be just one person but three people who will attempt to fill the shoes of the pope.
Here is the news via the New York Daily News. The trio is former WFAN producer and current Philly sports talk host Chris Carlin, former Jets linebacker and CBS Sports analyst Bart Scott, and Maggie Gray of CBS Sports Radio and Sports Illustrated. Scott will also be making the move to WFAN from their competitors at 98.7 ESPN Radio in New York.
Industry sources say WFAN suits will soon name Chris Carlin, Bart Scott, and Maggie Gray — who the Daily News first reported on Monday as the third member of the team — as its new afternoon drive team replacing Francesa when he departs the station on Dec. 15.
The News also first reported earlier this month that Carlin and Scott were expected to be part of a trio that would take over for Francesa.
The FAN certainly appears to be making a concerted effort to have a diverse booth with a black host in Scott and a female in Gray.
Perhaps the most fascinating piece of the breaking news about Francesa’s replacement isn’t who was chosen, but who wasn’t chosen. The Daily News reports that multiple individuals turned down the chance to be Francesa’s replacement at WFAN.
Sources said near the end of the selection process, FAN honchos offered the gig to Chris Simms, a primary contender, but he turned it down.
The same scenario transpired when the gig was offered to NFLN’s Kimberly Jones, ESPN’s Max Kellerman and CBSSN/Sirius XM’s Adam Schein. The selection committee explored the possibility of pursuing WABC’s Sid Rosenberg but he is still under contract to that station.
The report that multiple people from across sports media turned down the Francesa gig is interesting. Perhaps it’s a combination of those individuals being content where they are currently employed and the challenge of trying to replace someone who (in spite of how much fun it is to poke fun at his foibles) is a sports talk radio legend.
It’s impossible to predict how this is going to go given these three individuals are being pulled in from vastly different places and will bring vastly different perspectives to the table. And if it’s true that Gray, Carlin, and Scott weren’t necessarily the first choice (or choices) for WFAN, it gives the appearance of a hodgepodge that the station is trying to piece together in hopes of hitting the jackpot.
The trio could get on the air from Day 1 and have amazing chemistry that will be a breath of fresh air for WFAN listeners. Or it could be an awkward mishmash that won’t have a long shelf life. Maybe it’ll be somewhere in between. The only thing that we know is that it will be a very different drivetime for New Yorkers than what they’ve been accustomed to for the past three decades.