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New character, new story line 

On Monday afternoon I watched “Hire a Coach,” the weekly soap opera produced by the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

It looked like there were two story lines. One was that Chancellor John White is losing his mind. The other is that they apparently are fixing to bring the Nolan Richardson character back. It was portended by a telling reference by Frank Broyles, who’s been on this show even longer than Susan Lucci’s been on hers.

There seemed to have been a little more rehearsal this time. Last time the new character didn’t know how to do a hog call. This newest new guy, John Purifoy, or Peripheral — well, I didn’t quite catch it — seemed to have been put through preparatory paces.

He looks like he might turn out all right, except that he talked about bleeding blue and bleeding red, which says to me he’s got purple blood.

That boy last week looked like a refugee from “The Munsters,” and about as at home as Wally Hall at a literary festival.

First, there was the White crackup, which was a clever twist, considering that viewers would have expected it of Broyles instead.

White, the chancellor of the school, which is a supporting role to Broyles, got up and started rambling about Yogi Berra and “Groundhog Day” and wound up carrying on about kudzu and pines and bluegrass and coal mines and lowlands and Lord knows what all.

Everybody was looking at him trying to figure out what he was talking about. The camera went to Broyles, who had fallen asleep.

It turned out that what White was saying was that the backward South, being pitiful and having nothing else going for it, places too much emphasis on adolescent sports endeavors and that the university must feed this inferiority complex, this human tragedy, by making sports enterprises its master.

Then White declared that his motto was “fit.” That’s apparently because he was having one.

So then Broyles woke up and, lo and behold, made some complimentary reference to the quotable wisdom of Nolan Richardson.

Last time that story line had been visited, Richardson was calling Broyles a “white-haired devil,” suing him in federal court and telling HBO that Broyles was “somewhat of” a racist. Then Richardson had walked off the show and told everybody where to go. And he meant for more than 40 minutes.

I’m thinking this was all a set-up to bring Nolan back. After all, the show never had higher ratings than when his character was going strong. I’m thinking he could be coach emeritus, like Frank is going to be athletic director emeritus. It might even make a spinoff — the adventures of once-bitter enemies as they fade into the sunset trying to figure out what “emeritus” means.

Plus, someone’s going to have to take White’s place while he’s at the funny farm.

The basketball players seemed fine with everything, but it might just have been that they were cutting class and all doobied up.

Meantime, we haven’t seen that Houston Dale character since he got crossways with Gus and ran off Mitch and was shown — as the camera faded, to the sound of eerie, ominous music — sending a text message.

So there’s plenty to look forward to, though I don’t think the show will ever get better than that time D-Mac cut his toe off and turned out able to run even faster.

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