Caitlin Clark Making Women’s Sports a Slam Dunk 

Women’s basketball has long been overshadowed by its male counterpart. As someone who played women’s basketball for 12 years, it was painfully obvious how much viewers preferred to watch men’s games. Our varsity girls’ basketball team would have an average of 8 students at each home game compared to the men’s full student section. While it is just high school basketball, this is the same for women’s basketball across multiple levels. For example, at the University of Michigan, the women’s basketball team has an average attendance of 3,627 people compared to the men’s 12,463 average. While these numbers are hard to swallow, one individual is giving hope to girls across the country that women’s sports can be just as important as men’s – Caitlin Clark.  

Caitlin Clark is single-handedly changing women’s basketball. She is an extremely talented guard for the Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team who has my, and many others, admiration. Her skill and leadership have been a driving force in their dominant season record; they are currently 20-2 and ranked number 1 in the Big 10. Caitlin is famous for her long-range shooting that she consistently makes, which nobody else in the league has done yet. On top of her amazing far-range shooting, she is also extremely skilled in ball handling, passing, and driving to the basket. She is the number 1 on the women’s all-time scoring list and was voted National Player of the Year. Along with being the Big Ten’s all-time leader in points and assists, she also leads in points per game (32.4), assists per game (7.9) and 3-point field goals made (122). Caitlin Clark is the only Division I player to have 3,000 points, 900 assists, and 800 rebounds, which shows that her offense is stellar across the board.  

She really made her mark during the 2022-2023 season March Madness competition. She broke more than one college basketball record in this single tournament. She became the first person ever to achieve a 40-point triple-double in a Division I NCAA Tournament – both men’s and women’s tournaments. For those who are not basketball fanatics like me, this means that in a single game a player racks up a double-digit number total in three of five statistical categories—points, assists, steals, rebounds, and blocked shots. So, impressive. Not only is it impressive to people like me, but NBA star Earvin “Magic” Johnson was thinking along the same lines and went to Twitter to share his appreciation. He said, “I want to give a lot of love to superstar Caitlin Clark after she recorded 41 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists in Iowa’s win over Louisville! She’s the first player ever to record a 40-point triple-double in a men’s or women’s NCAA Tournament game.” It is very telling of her talent that she has the attention of legends! Aside from her 40-point triple-double, she set a single tournament scoring record with 191 points and became the only player in NCAA women’s tournament history to get back-to-back 40-point games. Overall, that’s a pretty amazing tournament if you ask me. 

So, her stats are obviously incredible, but not only is she blowing minds with these, she is also contributing to record-breaking viewership and attendance at women’s college basketball games. During the NCAA Tournament, there were massive rating spikes and in-person attendance for the Championship game, with a sellout crowd of 19,482 and a mind-blowing 9.9 million viewers from home, me included. Over the tournament, there was a record of over 350,000 people (about half the population of Vermont) who attended the games. These ratings were not just for the championship game. The Final Four game had 5.5 million viewers, which made it the most viewed Women’s NCAA Tournament semifinals game recorded. Along with viewers, there were 55,646 fans that attended this Final Four game. Viewership for women’s basketball has surged across the board. This was the most-viewed regular season for the WNBA in 11 years, with over 36 million viewers across all the networks. Because of the “Caitlin Clark Affect” people are finally becoming interested in women’s basketball. 

Caitlin Clark is a catalyst for the advancement of women’s equality in the athletic sphere. Not only is she promoting women’s basketball, but she’s also setting the stage to bring all women’s sports to the table. The University of Nebraska’s volleyball team has been increasingly popular this year, and this is in part due to the media attention on women’s college athletics. This increase in viewership is so important for female athletes and just women across the board because it brings female sports to the conversation. Who knows where this Hawkey’s impact will lead?

By McKenna Freitas, NOW Development Intern