The new coach ran his players ragged, just as he had done previously at Southern Indiana and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. One former UWM pupil quipped that "If your stomach isn't empty when you show up for practice, it will be when you leave."
Pearl concedes that he works his players pretty hard but says the system he utilizes demands it.
"I think our teams have been well conditioned because of the style of play," he noted earlier this year. "We practice at a pretty frantic pace."
One of Pearl's top priorities as head coach at UT was to meet with the trainers and determine how to get his players in the best shape possible.
"We put our heads together," he recalled. "You've got to give Chad Newman and Troy Willis a lot of credit for what we do and how we do it. We give a lot of thought to everything we do. For example, we lift at 6:45 on Monday mornings, and I think that's significant. Getting them up in the morning on Monday helps get their mind working for class and, after the day off (Sunday), they can really get a hard lift on Monday. Then we're able to practice Monday afternoon. Then we don't lift again until Thursday after practice, and that's a light lift.
"When we lift … how hard we lift … how hard we go in practice … that all has to do with our conditioning."
Pearl took part in some of the weight work, once shocking his troops by out-lifting forward Andre Patterson.
"I lift with them on Monday mornings," the coach said. "That (6:45 a.m.) is so early that, if I expect them to be there, I have to be there."
Although Tennessee's players felt they won several games last winter by being the better-conditioned team, Pearl conceded that a few opponents had an edge on the Vols in that category.
"I thought early in the season there were several times – Appy State, Lipscomb, Southern Indiana," he said. "All were close games and all were early.
"People thought we were in great shape because we played hard, but we weren't. There were a lot of times we were pretty gassed. That's because the cardio work it takes to get in shape (is something) you're going to get through the season."