Pearl must fill some seats

Many observers consider Thompson-Boling Arena an albatross -- a 24,500-seat mistake that is a detriment to the Tennessee basketball program. They correctly note that smaller gyms (Stokely Athletics Center, for instance) tend to produce more noise and a more exciting atmosphere.

Buzz Peterson cited TBA as a negative following his recent dismissal. That seems a bit odd since he posted the SEC's best home record (7-1 in league games) in 2003-04.

Those who support Thompson-Boling argue that more victories would put more people in the seats. They also note that TBA seems to be no problem for the Lady Vols, who enjoy an incredible degree of homefloor success there.

If the men's team could put a better product on the floor and win more frequently, perhaps TBA's cavernous size and sterile atmosphere could be overcome. New men's coach Bruce Pearl seems to think so. He knows he must fill some of those empty seats in order to revive the program but he believes he has a formula that will do so.

"As far as putting people in the seats, I understand that's what is going to help us win," Pearl said. "The style of play will help. Winning will help.

"Certainly, the passion with which we are going to coach -- and with which our players are going to play -- will draw fans to the arena."

Perhaps Pearl's up-tempo style will draw more fans to TBA than Peterson's halfcourt attack did. Perhaps Pearl can get the Vols to play with more enthusiasm and effort than his predecessor. Certainly, the new coach believes UT hoops represents a golden opportunity.

"The sky is the limit as far as the potential,'' Pearl said. ''We win here and everybody in the nation and the SEC is going to take notice."


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