When it comes to Dan McNeil, the drama never ends.
The $300,000-a-year franchise player at CBS Radio sports/talk WSCR AM 670 is missing again from the midday show he co-hosts with Matt Spiegel. McNeil’s last broadcast was June 13 — just two days before his contract with the Score expired.
While the latest guessing game about the mercurial Danny Mac drags on, various guest hosts have been filling in alongside Spiegel from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays.
Rod Zimmerman, senior vice president and market manager of CBS Radio Chicago, confirmed that conversations with McNeil are ongoing. McNeil’s agent, Bryan Harlan, did not respond to a request for comment.
McNeil’s last extended absence had him off the air for seven weeks while he underwent treatment for addiction to prescription narcotics. He returned from rehab in December vowing to redeem himself in the eyes of his bosses, co-workers and listeners. In addition to battles with substance abuse and depression, McNeil made headlines over the years for numerous suspensions for his conduct on and off the air.
“You’d think you’d get used to doing this, as often as I have come back from extended absences, whether it’s treating my addiction or having issues with suspensions up the dial for a number of years,” he said after his last comeback. “But it doesn’t get any easier.”
In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, middays on the Score ranked 15th overall with a 2.6 percent share and cumulative weekly audience of 289,100. Among men between 18 and 49, “Mac and Spiegs” were fourth with a 4.4 share and a weekly cume of 132,600.
It’s not entirely clear what McNeil is holding out for this time. To some he’s made it known he dislikes working middays and wants to move to afternoon drive. To others, he’s said he wants a raise to $500,000, which would put him on par with afternoon host Terry Boers, the Score’s highest paid personality. Still others believe he’s angling to take the summer off and return in time for football season. And then there are those who think he’s testing the market to see if he can make a better deal elsewhere.
Unless he were to sit out until next year, any offer McNeil receives from a competitor would be subject to the Score’s right to match. It’s highly unlikely that he’d be welcomed back at ESPN Radio WMVP AM 1000, where he spent nine stormy years before he was dropped in 2009. That leaves Tribune Broadcasting newcomer WGWG LP 87.7, which made no effort to stop the Score from resigning afternoon host Dan Bernstein earlier this month.
Notwithstanding McNeil’s considerable talent as a broadcaster, his 28 years in Chicago radio, and his undeniable impact on the ratings, patience and loyalty cut both ways.
The question is how much longer will CBS Radio bosses put up with a temperamental star who’s left them in the lurch time and time again?