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Tim Benz signs off at WEEI

Well, that didn't take long. Little more than an hour had passed since Tim Benz signed off from WEEI's "Middays with MFB" program for the final time, and the station Thursday already had tweaked its promos to reference the program as "Middays with Merloni and Fauria."

That would be the M and the F — holdovers Lou Merloni and Christian Fauria — but no more B.

Benz, who arrived from Pittsburgh in May 2014 to essentially replace Mike Mutnansky on the program (Fauria, a former Patriots tight end, signed on at the same time during the midday shakeup), announced Tuesday that he is returning from where he came.


Thursday marked his final show, and while those promos excluding him might have been updated quickly, he did receive an appreciative sendoff from his co-hosts as the clock neared 2 p.m.

"You and I obviously went at it,'' said Merloni, who often found himself defending the Patriots when Benz, a Steelers fan, would antagonize listeners with his perspective. "That's what this is all about . . . It made for good radio."

The trio of hosts sounded as if they actually liked each other, which isn't always — some might say often — the case in the business of sports radio.

Benz came to WEEI from 970 AM in Pittsburgh. He is returning to the Steel City for an undisclosed opportunity that begins next month.

He joked that Steelers fans will say he's a Patriots fan, just as Patriots fans considered him — often with good reason — someone who enjoyed agitating the fanbase about the team's various controversies, such as the recent one you may have heard about regarding slightly deflated footballs.

"That happened when I was [in Pittsburgh] the first time,'' Benz said. "They remembered I was born in Boston more than people here remembered I was born in Boston."


But his reasons are personal as well as professional. Benz's family remained in Pittsburgh the entire time he lived in Boston. That makes for a heck of a weekend commute.

"Tim's wife tried to find a job here in Boston but [it just didn't happen],'' Phil Zachary, vice president/market manager for Entercom Boston, WEEI's parent company, said in an e-mail. "We were aware of Tim's concerns — and, of course, the strains of being apart from his spouse and family — last spring but just couldn't argue with his ultimate decision to return to Pittsburgh."

Despite his Pittsburgh loyalties, Benz, whose father, Dr. Edward Benz Jr., is retiring next summer as chief executive of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which partners with WEEI and NESN on the annual Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon fund-raiser, was indeed born in Boston. Whether he made much of an impact during his 15 months on the air in the city is debatable.

WEEI did see an uptick in its ratings from last spring, when he was hired, to this spring. Last year, the program finished eighth in the market with a 4.5 share among men 25-54. This spring, it earned a 5.3 share, good for sixth.

What is certain is that he worked at it. Benz could often be found in the press box and the postgame media scrums of various Boston sporting events. Not many sports radio hosts put in the in-person legwork beyond making cameo appearances at Opening Day and occasional playoff games.


"This job is a grind,'' said Fauria. "I always ask you what the hell you're doing after the show, and you're working."

So what — or who — is next? Zachary said Entercom/WEEI is reviewing at least five candidates to replace Benz, all local. The whispers heard at this address include familiar names and voices: Gary Tanguay, Greg Dickerson, Danny Picard (though he has his fans and skeptics at WEEI), and Christian Arcand.

A triumphant return of Glenn Ordway, who was let go after a long and successful run on WEEI's afternoon-drive program in February 2013, would make a lot of sense if Entercom corporate management would sign off on it. From this perspective, he is the odds-on favorite.

"Expect to hear different voices in there over the next month or so,'' said Zachary in the e-mail. "Unlike the last time we had an opening at WEEI, we now have a strong bench of part-timers and weekenders as well some other great talent [not currently in radio] who are very interested in working with Lou and Christian."

As of Thursday, the person who worked with Merloni and Fauria has officially moved on. But chances are you'll hear Benz on WEEI again soon. After all, the Patriots open their season against none other than the Steelers.

Fair to say Benz is already booked as a guest for that week.

"I can't wait for [Ben] Roethlisberger-[Jimmy] Garoppolo,'' he said, landing one last jab before signing off. "It'll be fantastic."


Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.