Who is Caitlin Clark? The college star who has transformed women’s basketball

Who is Caitlin Clark? The college star who has transformed women’s basketball
  • PublishedApril 16, 2024

The “Caitlin Clark Effect”, as it has been known, has transformed women’s basketball forever in terms of viewing ratings, attendance, merchandise and off-the-court endorsement deals.

Caitlin Clark has left an enduring legacy throughout American society and culture – both on and off the basketball court – all by the age of 22. 

Clark, from West Des Moines, Iowa, made her college debut for the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2020 and has also represented the USA at international youth level.

Since then, she has been immortalised as the greatest scorer in college basketball history, racking up 3,951 points across four seasons.

In March, she passed five-time NBA All-Star and college basketball legend Pete Maravich for the all-time National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) points record, held for more than half a century.

Her impact on NCAA attendances helped set or break records in all but two of the Hawkeyes games in 2023-24.

Caitlin Clark (22) is introduced during the 2024 NCAA Tournament Women's Final Four championship game against the South Carolina Gamecocks
Image:Clark is the greatest scorer in college basketball history. Pic: Reuters

The “Caitlin Clark Effect”, as it has been known, has transformed women’s basketball forever. Here’s how she has achieved it.

The ratings game

College basketball is highly anticipated in the early part of the year, culminating with “March Madness” – a knockout tournament to determine the NCAA champion.

More than 12 million people watched 2 April’s Elite Eight (quarter-final) matchup against LSU, where Clark scored 41 points.

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) drives up court past South Carolina guard Raven Johnson, left, during the first half of the Final Four college basketball championship game in the women's NCAA Tournament, Sunday, April 7, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Image:Clark (R) is expected to be picked by Indiana Fever in this year’s WNBA draft. Pic: AP

This year’s Iowa-South Carolina national championship game averaged 18.7 million viewers, up 89% on the year before – making it the highest-rated basketball game in five years, men’s or women’s, at any level. South Carolina won the game 87-75.

At its peak, the match was being viewed by 24 million people across America.

Clark’s presence in WNBA will be game-changing

To put that into perspective, the 2023 WNBA Finals averaged 728,000 viewers over four games – with 889,000 tuning in to witness the Las Vegas Aces’ championship win.

Of the 12 WNBA teams, the Indiana Fever had the second-lowest attendance in 2023.

This is their second draft in a row with the No 1 pick and they chose Clark.

Name, Image, Likeness

The 22-year-old has signed lucrative endorsement deals with Nike, Gatorade, State Farm and Panini – all before turning pro.

Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) restrictions were lifted in June 2021, following a Supreme Court decision. This landmark moment allowed student-athletes to earn from commercials and endorsements, where previously they were not allowed to until they turned professional.

Caitlin Clark.
Pic: Reuters
Image:She has signed endorsement deals with some big names. Pic: Reuters

According to NIL database On3, Clark has made $3.1m (£2.4m) from sponsorship deals, ranking as the highest amongst women’s basketball players and fourth highest amongst student-athletes.

Caitlin Clark vs Stephen Curry

In 2023-24, Clark had the greatest three-point NCAA shooting season of all time for any gender, making 201.

She surpassed the previous joint-record holder and four-time NBA champion, Stephen Curry with 162 in 2007-08.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry warms up before an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)
Image:Stephen Curry. Pic: AP

Clark holds the record for the most three-pointers made in NCAA history, scoring 548 of them in her four years at the University of Iowa.

The future

While Clark may have fallen short of the ultimate title of a national championship, her lasting impact on women’s basketball cannot be underestimated.

The Iowa legend has increased viewing ratings, attendance, and merchandise sales to unprecedented heights.

Off the court, her star power has opened burgeoning financial opportunities for student-athletes.

With Clark’s selection as the No 1 overall pick, this is only the beginning. 


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