College football fans build new communities in NYC

The spirit of college football is alive and well in New York City. Although it does not have as much fan frenzy as in the south or the mid-west, all the big football schools have a bar, or two, that they are affiliated with in the city. And for the playoff games on New Year’s Eve, these venues were full of excitement.

Michigan fans packed into Blue Haven East in Murray Hill on December 31st to watch the Wolverines take on the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl. 

Blue Haven has been a gathering spot for Michigan fans since it first opened in 2018, and it all started because of something both the bar and the school have in common: their colors. 

"It’s because of the world blue. Michigan fans basically just started claiming this as their bar," said Blue Haven owner Scott Cohen.

And so, a tradition began. Every Saturday for Michigan games, fans flock to Blue Haven, filling the place to capacity. The experience is described as being as close as you can get to actually being in Ann Arbor for a game. 

"Michigan has 11,000 alumni in Manhattan alone," said Celeste Northern, President of the University of Michigan Alumni Club of NYC.  

Courtney Greifenberger says, "When you’re at Blue Haven, you feel like you’re at a bar in Ann Arbor. It feels pretty much the same." 

And Roland Park says, "Everyone here is really into the game, so it’s a good time. The Michigan community is always strong."

Meantime, over at Sweet Annie’s Bar and Eatery at the corner of 52nd Street and 2nd Avenue, there was a different crowd cheering on Texas Christian University. Even though Sweet Annie’s just opened in 2021, one of the bar owners, Trevor Kelly, was already connected to TCU fans, and he was able to bring that fanbase to Sweet Annie’s. 

"I’ve been a TCU bar on and off for seven or eight years," said Kelly. 

"Trevor had a couple of TCU contacts from previous places and reached out, and it just went from one strength to the next," owner Danny Price says

Even though TCU does not have as many alumni in New York City as schools like Michigan, Sweet Annie’s says it can get as many as 100 people coming in for football games, and these fans love to see their school community coming together. 

Tim Burkly, President of TCU Alumni New York City, said, "It’s like a fun home away from home especially for a lot of people who aren’t from the New York area originally." 

Fans at Sweet Annie’s certainly had a lot to be excited about on New Year’s Eve. TCU, ranked third, pulled off a major upset and beat number two-ranked Michigan in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl with a final score of 51 to 45, earning them a spot in Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship.

One other school was just as happy with the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl outcome as TCU. Ohio State fans celebrated Michigan’s loss before the Buckeyes took the field in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the second New Year’s Eve playoff game. Ohio State and Michigan have one of the biggest rivalries in college football, dating back more than 100 years.

Headless Horseman, which will soon be renamed The High Note, just became an Ohio State bar this season. It has come under new ownership, which includes Jesse Rosen, an Ohio State alum.

"We actually have investors from 6 different graduating classes within Ohio State. We essentially wanted to create a place that was like a home away from home outside Columbus," Rosen said.

And so far, a home away from home is exactly how fans describe Headless Horseman. 

Across Manhattan, another sea of red gathered at American Whiskey in Midtown. American Whiskey has been home to fans of the Georgia Bulldogs, Ohio State’s opponent in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and the defending national champions since it first opened in 2013. 

"It’s really interesting for a bar in New York City to have a relationship with a football program in Athens, Georgia. It’s oil and water in a lot of senses, but we’ve been able to make it work," American Whiskey Partner Kevin Hooshangi says.

Even though American Whiskey is right around the corner from Madison Square Garden, the staff there says nothing compares to the crowds they get for a UGA football game. Some fans even travel to New York City just to get this experience. 

Mallory O’Brien, President of NYC Dawgs, said she met a dedicated fan at American Whiskey the night of the Peach Bowl from Savannah, Georgia. 

"He couldn’t get tickets to the game," she said, "so he came here instead." 

On New Year’s Eve, there was arguably no better place to be in New York City than American Whiskey. 

The Bulldogs were up 42-41 in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl with just seven seconds left, but Ohio State had the chance to get a kick a field goal and win it all. 

However, their kicker missed, securing Georgia’s victory and sending them to the National Championship with a chance to defend their title. 

The celebration was straight out of Athens, Georgia right in the middle of Midtown Manhattan.