Shari Acho, co-director of the Academic Success Program, at the academic center.
School of Rock
Historical local venue continues to thrive
By Kimberly Chou/ Daily Arts Writer
While upperclassmen and younger
University students in the fake-
ID sect like to frequent central
campus hangouts such as Scorekeep-
er's and the Brown Jug, those who are
smart enough know to travel a few
blocks west to find a bar of a better
breed - the famed Blind Pig. It's not
the place where everyone knows your
name, but the quintessential college
bar-and-venue - boasting a colorful
history and music above and beyond
Clear Channel radio remixes.
Praised by Rolling Stone magazine
and rated number seven their "Campus
Scenes That Rock" list, the Blind Pig is
the spot to catch Ghostface Killah on
his way through town, or chill with the
original hip-hop master DJ Kool Herc
before a Saturday-night show. Indie
rock favorites, such as '80s pioneers
Dinosaur Jr. and Ted Leo and the Phar-
macists are also featured.
Since its inception in 1971, the brain-
child of two university students, the
Blind Pig has accumulated as many
remarkable truths as it has rumors.
No, Jimi Hendrix never graced
its stage with his presence, but both
Pearl Jam and Nirvana played the Pig
before early '90s grunge took off. And
although John Lennon did not actually
perform at the venue, he recorded at the
ground floor Blind Pig Records after
a benefit show to free MC5 manager
John Sinclair, then in jail for marijuana
"It's a shorter list to tell you who
didn't play here," booker Jason Berry
When the Blind Pig was but a tiny
basement blues bar, Koko Taylor and
Robert Cray both played shows there.
Looking through the assortment of
signed portraits and press-kit photos
that line the walls leading up to the
stage, you might come across the yel-
lowed, black and white photograph of
Buddy Guy performing at booker John
Randall's wedding reception.
"They had the market cornered in
this part of the country (for blues),"
Though the tiny downstairs hallway
that served as a showcase for Detroit and
Chicago bluesmen is now just another
way to access the 8 Ball Saloon, some
of the original wooden benches are
still intact. Swirling blue-green paint-
ings of elephants playing instruments
peek from behind newer photo collages
on the craggly cement walls. It's hard
to imagine crowds with the occasional
Bonnie Raitt or Frank Zappa sighting
crammed into such a narrow enclave.
Owner Betty Wells-Goffett, a sharp-
humored yet pleasant older woman,
said they are re-painting the walls and
putting up new photos.
"It's time to change," she said, point-
ing out her favorite photo, one from
the numerous Blind Pig costume par-
ties. Dated 1988, the young man in the
photo is jovial and smiling. He is also
wearing very little clothing.
"All he had on was a milk-carton!"
Wells-Goffett laughed. "The (waitress-
es) ran to tell me ... I told them, 'The
question is, is it a pint or a quart?' "
Besides having an impressive collec-
tion of anecdotes, Wells-Goffett is also
the most in-the-know about the Blind
Pig building's history.
"It was built in 1863, when Abra-
ham Lincoln was president," she said.
Wells-Goffett noted that the Blind Pig
still has the original safe, now a stor-
age area behind the bar 'and a one-time
"The building housed a laundry at
one time, a sewing company - dur-
ing the war it was a machine factory,"
Wells-Goffett continued. The raised
level to the left of the stage is filled
with concrete; once a foundation for
the machines to sit on.
Nowadays, you walk into the Blind
Pig greeted by red-bricked walls and
skinny wrought-iron gates. There is
a mannequin in a full tuxedo and pig
mask by the door; to the left, a calen-
dar of events behind the counter where
doormen check for ID. A variety of
empty beer and malt beverage bottles
dangle in front of a glass partition like
a boozy children's mobile.
The almost-outdoor decor - the
gates with in-cut stars, the double arch-
way through which patrons can walk
through to the bar - is reminiscent
of when the front of the ground floor
was once served as a European-style
cafe boasting Michigan's first Italian
espresso machine and glassed-in sun-
room, according to owner Wells-Gof-
All the Blind Pig encompassed was
the former sunroom, backing bar and
aforementioned basement blues venue
when Wells-Goffett and her late hus-
band Roy bought the cafe/venue from
original owners Tom Isaia and Jerry
Besides introducing cappuccino to
Ann Arbor - forever altering the lives
of the campus' female population -
Wells-Goffett said the two young men
tended bar without a liquor license.
"It really was a 'blind pig,' " she said,
referring to similar illegal barrooms
prevalent during the Prohibition.
See BLIND PIG, page 12B
"I believe in school
cho, who has been
involved in athletics
and education for
most of her profes-
sional life, believes
she has the best
interest of athletes
in mind. She has done academic coun-
seling, specifically for football players,
for the last 12 years - six here and
six at Michigan State. Before that, she
worked as a teacher and athletic direc-
tor at a high school in Florida. She has
a bachelor's degree in exceptional stu-
dent education and a master's in athletic
administration. So, needless to say, she
knows what she's doing. But she can't
do it all on her own.
Every Monday morning, she meets
with the football coaching staff to give
them a full report on all of their student
athletes. She tells the coaches if any of
the athletes are having problems, skip-
ping class or failing anything. She -
like all the other academic counselors
with their specific sports - does "grade
reports" for the coaches as the semester
"We kind of have a no-surprise rule:'
Acho explained. "It's not our fault if a
kid fails out as long as the coaches are
aware all along. And if they haven't
intervened ... there's a responsibility of
the coaches to help us out in that way."
The way Acho sees it, she has noth-
ing to hold over the head of a kid who
is struggling academically. The coaches
can hold kids out of competition. They
can kick them off the team. She says
that, in general, the coaches are "pretty
tough" on their students.
Michigan hockey coach Red Beren-
son has a great story that he tells when
he's asked about the importance of
academics for his collegiate hockey
It was February of the 1997-98 sea-
son, and Michigan, like always, was
fighting for first place in the CCHA as
the regular season wound down. In a
game at rival Michigan State - a game
that The Michigan Daily described at
the time as "arguably the biggest game
of the season" - Berenson benched
senior goaltender Marty Turco, the
team's star, for academic reasons.
"I had heard that Turco had missed a
couple of classes, and it was his senior
year," Berenson recalled. "And I told
him, 'Marty, if I find out you miss
another class, you're going to miss a
game.' And sure enough, he did."
The team got shellacked by the Spar-
tans in a 5-1 loss and ended up losing
the CCHA regular-season title because
of that loss - although they did go on to
win the NCAA Tournament two months
"The good thing was I think Marty
learned something and his teammates
learned something," Berenson said.
"We had to make a tough decision, but
I thought it was the right decision. Now,
we've sat out a lot more players than
that, but that was a visible thing."
When the television reporters asked
him after the game why Turco wasn't
between the pipes for one of the biggest
games of the year, Berenson told them:
"Marty's a great kid, but he made a mis-
take. Maybe he wasn't accountable for
it, but now our team is accountable and
our fans and everyone is disappointed
that Marty Turco made that decision.
The decision obviously resonated
with Turco, who told the Daily after the
game that he "let the team down."
Although Acho said most coaches are
"very supportive" of the Academic Sup-
port Program when it comes to bench-
ing players who are struggling, she also
admitted that Berenson is by far the
best. Berenson has a reputation for car-
ing more than most about the education
of his student athletes.
Perhaps it's because he was a hockey
player and a student athlete here 40 years
ago. He was in the College of Engineer-
ing before transferring to the business
school. He knows that it's tough to be
both a student and an athlete. But he
also knows that it's possible to do and
Berenson had a brief stint as a coach
in the NHL, but he came back to Michi-
gan "because I believe in school and
hockey, but not just hockey."
Acho also pointed to the support
from Athletic Director Bill Martin as
a reason why coaches are willing to sit
players who are struggling academi-
cally. She says he makes it clear again
and again in meetings that it's not just
about winning. According to Acho, he
tells the coaches often that "we need to
make sure that our kids are doing what
they're supposed to be doing and are
representative of this program."
It's this overall philosophy, she says,
that makes sitting players out when they
aren't performing the in classroom a
little bit easier.
Just as efficient as we can
tion rates, prob-
ably as much as
almost any other
in the country.
Easily visible in his office - on a bul-
letin board above his desk and next to
his computer - is a chart of gradua-
tion rates. It's paper with a few sets of
bar graphs - two for each year since
he's been Michigan's athletic director.
The maize bar graphs all show student-
athlete graduation rates. The blue ones
show the graduation rates of the general
The blue graphs are higher than the
maize graphs for every year, but as
Martin points out, some years they are
closer than others. When he arrived at
Michigan in 2000, regular graduation
rates were at 82 percent and student ath-
letes graduated at a rate of 68 percent.
Last year, it was 85 to 73, but the year
before that, the chart shows Michigan
graduated 82 percent of its athletes to
the University's 84 percent. That's the
closest the athletic department has ever
come to hitting Martin's goal of sur-
passing the graduation rate of the gen-
eral student population.
Ultimately, Martin says, "What I
focus on is, are we making certain that
these kids, all of them when they leave
here, they've got the necessary tools to
be productive members in our society
Martin insists that "all our coaches
know what our objective is." Even
though he's an athletic director, he says
the first thing he talks about at every one
of his meetings with senior staff is aca-
If you want more proof that Martin
at least tries to be education-oriented,
follow the money. Martin is a self-pro-
claimed cheapskate. He finds corners
of his notebook to write on so that he
doesn't have to waste paper, and he
claims it's a well-known fact that he
goes around turning off lights.
He looks at the new academic center
- a $12-million project financed by the
$5-million donation he solicited from
Stephen M. Ross, another large dona-
tion from Washington Post publisher
Don Graham and smaller sums through
donations and pledges - and thinks
the hallways are about six inches too
wide, adding to the operating cost of the
The athletic department currently
spends a little less than $700,000 on the
Academic Success Program. Most of
that money is tied up in the personnel
salaries of the ten people who work in
the building and the $8 to $12 per hour
they pay the tutors. The rest is used to
rent space for freshman study table and
other minor expenses.
Next year, that number will go up by
about 50 percent because of the new
Academic Center. Jason Winters, who
is in charge of finances for the athletic
department, said the budgeted operat-
ing cost for the building for a full year is
about $400,000. It's one cost Martin is
more than happy to eat.
"We'll be as efficient as we can, but if
we're sincere and straightforward about
our commitment to academics, that cost
is insignificant," Martin said.
Martin says the same thing about the
tuition his department pays for student
athletes - more than $12 million each
Berenson has always been impressed
by the athletic department's desire to get
athletes to graduate, even if it has to pay
out of its pocket long after the athlete is
done competing for Michigan. It's this
attitude that has many in the athletic
department praising Martin's academ-
Roberson would sing a different tune.
After spending 31 years at the Univer-
sity - including three as athletic direc-
tor - Roberson has a pretty good idea
of how things work in Ann Arbor. He
laughs a little before he says it, and he
makes sure to ask if you're ready for
a little philosophy. But then he jumps
right in. He says that, in his time as ath-
letic director, he became aware of the
three components to decision-making
in the athletic department. The first is
competition, the second is business, and
only the third is academics.
"The fact is that the first two are sort
of intertwined - the need for money
and the need to win," Roberson says.
"You have to have money to win and
you have to win to get money."
On top of that, he says, both of those
are measurable. Everyone can recognize
a winning and losing football team and
everyone knows how to spot a deficit in
the budget. It's more complicated to ask
someone to point out who left Michigan
with an education.
Graduation rates are certainly one
way of measuring, but even Martin
would agree that they don't tell the
whole story. In fact, Martin would use
that argument to make a different point.
Until four years ago, the football
players - like most other students -
were put on a four-year graduation plan,
meaning they would be set to graduate in
April of their senior year. But Acho and
Shand noticed a trend. Football players
were often leaving school in the middle
of their senior year to get ready for the
4B - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, January 26, 2006
The Michigan Daily