Mike Francesa

Ever since Mike Francesa signed off WFAN for the last time in December, ending his 30-year run at that New York station, there’s been a lot of discussion about what’s next for him, with Francesa himself just repeatedly saying he’d address his future after his non-compete expired on April 1. Well, it’s almost the end of April now, and there still hasn’t been any official comment from Francesa on where he’s headed.

So, that’s led to a lot of talk, and much of the talk has centered around a March piece on Francesa’s future from Andrew Marchand of The New York Post. That piece noted that Francesa was building a studio in his house, working with CAA, had talked to The Athletic and had nothing firm yet. (Francesa got quite defensive and feisty about that, saying “You should write, ‘You, Andrew Marchand, don’t know what I’m planning.'”) Now, Marchand has returned to the Francesa future beat, and in strong terms with a piece titled “Desperate Mike Francesa wants back on radio, with WFAN possible“:

Mike Francesa desperately misses doing New York sports radio and is trying to get back on the air, sources told The Post.

Francesa or his representatives have had talks with executives from 98.7 ESPN New York and WOR 710 AM, according to sources, but what also can’t be ruled out at this point is a return to WFAN in some form.

Francesa could not be immediately reached for comment.

That piece uses “desperately” twice, and it’s easy to see Francesa objecting to it. However, it’s also possible to see why Marchand is using the language he is. Francesa is long past the expiration of his non-compete clause, so if he had a firm destination already lined up, you would think he would have announced it already. The delay suggests that he doesn’t have a firm landing spot at this point.

It also suggests that Francesa’s hopes of drawing a bigger national spot may not pan out, which makes sense; while he’s declared he’s “internet gold,” and while he certainly has produced plenty of moments worthy of national discussion (that’s not always a positive, though, Mike!), his attempt to go national with the then-Fox Sports 1 didn’t work out at all. And there doesn’t seem to be much national interest in listening to a long show from him, which would presumably be very New York-focused. Perhaps he thought ESPN’s 30 for 30 on Mike and the Mad Dog would translate into wider national popularity, but as our review from Ben Koo showed, even that didn’t draw a lot of interest from those who weren’t already well-aware of Francesa:

“It’s about Mike Francesa and Mad Dog.”

“I have no idea who or what that is.”

“They are big time sports talk radio hosts in New York. They were cohosts for awhile but then split up and had a bit of a falling out.”

“Ok. Is that it?”

Exactly. And there isn’t a lot of reason for a national audience to really care about Francesa, a 64-year-old radio host who’s been doing pretty much the same thing for 30 years and who’s always been narrowly focused on New York sports (and has often been publicly wrong even there, even if he won’t admit it). But he does have some appeal to the New York market. And WFAN’s replacement afternoon drive show with Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray, and Bart Scott has not done well in the ratings, with Michael Kay’s 98.7 ESPN New York show even slightly beating it in the winter book (an event so rare that national ESPN posted a release bragging about it), and while it seems unlikely WFAN would immediately blow that high-profile experiment up just to bring back Francesa, stranger things have happened.

But the even more interesting discussions may be the ESPN New York and WOR ones. Marchand has more on that:

With ESPN, Francesa has tried to entice the New York affiliate to take his Sunday morning NFL show and put it on its airwaves this fall, according to sources. ESPN would not consider putting Francesa in place of Kay’s show. It is unclear how a partnership with WOR, which does have the Mets’ games, would work. WOR currently has Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity on the afternoons.

Yes, a Sunday morning NFL show (which Francesa did on WFAN forever, and which he’s previously discussed bringing back after his afternoon exit) on ESPN NY could potentially work, but as Marchand notes, they’re not getting rid of Kay (who they’ve spent a long time promoting) to put Francesa on in the afternoons. WOR might work, and the idea of Francesa replacing Limbaugh or Hannity is quite funny, but those kinds of syndicated political programs usually have decent followings, so they might not want to ditch that for someone most known for his association with another station.

We’ll see how it all turns out. We do know one place Francesa will be, though; Thuzio is offering tickets for a June 18 New York Q+A with Francesa, moderated by co-founder Tiki Barber (with passed hors d’oeuvres and an open bar, but “exact location TBA”) for a mere $249.00 and up. So New Yorkers who are really desperate to hear The Sports Pope can check that out. And who knows, if he doesn’t wind up landing another radio gig, that could be an exclusive opportunity!

At any rate, it’s certainly interesting that Francesa seems to be shifting his search to New York radio, something that probably makes more sense for him than another attempt to go national. The question is just if there will be takers willing to pay him what he wants.

[The New York Post]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously worked at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.