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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Caitlin Clark: A defining presence in women’s sports

Illustration+Rachel+Choi
Rachel Choi
Illustration Rachel Choi

The University of Iowa’s women’s basketball star, Caitlin Clark, has redefined not only her school but also the world of college sports. By officially breaking the NCAA scoring record on March 3 in both men’s and women’s basketball, Clark changed the game for female athletes all over the world. 

The 6-foot-tall guard made her collegiate debut on Nov. 25, 2020, recording 27 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. At the end of her rookie season, she averaged 26.6 points a game and collected 799 points, making it one of the most successful freshman campaigns. In her sophomore season, she earned 863 points, followed by 1,055 points in her junior year. 

The now-senior broke the all-time NCAA scoring record with a total of 3,685 points in her collegiate career, surpassing Louisiana State University’s “Pistol” Pete Maravich, who scored 3,667 points in his 1967-1970 NCAA career. 

Additionally, Clark announced her decision to enter the 2024 WNBA draft on Feb. 29 via her Instagram and was automatically deemed as the number one overall draft pick. Clark redefined women’s sports on the collegiate level and now will do so at the professional level. She has not only had a record-breaking career but has become a household name and increased ticket sales for the WNBA draft after announcing her declaration to enter it. 

She has also fueled the conversation around women’s sports, especially since breaking the NCAA’s all-time scoring record. Both attendance and viewership of Iowa women’s basketball games have skyrocketed since the debut of Clark. Both Iowa women’s basketball viewership has gone up as well as NCAA women’s basketball as a whole, averaging 981,000 viewers per game in contrast to the men’s games, averaging 946,000 a game. 

Clark has also helped fuel the sale of women’s basketball tickets across the plane. The University of Iowa’s total revenue from 2023 was almost $16 million more than the year prior, with most coming from football and women’s basketball. Additionally, all of the Hawkeyes women’s basketball games have been sold out, including away games. The Hawkeyes also set the NCAA attendance record in their debut game at Kinnick Stadium with 55,646 attendees. 

Although an increase in viewership among women’s sports is a positive aspect of Clark’s popularity, with highlights and footage of her so readily available, she has faced a lot of criticism online, especially since breaking the NCAA scoring record. WNBA player Sheryl Swoopes has made numerous remarks about Clark’s career, specifically questioning her senior standing and downplaying her accomplishments when describing the intense environment that is the WNBA. Swoopes later retracted her statement after a text conversation with Clark. 

Clark also has 11 sponsorships through her National Letter of Intent (NIL) deals from numerous different companies and organizations, including State Farm, H&R Block, Goldman Sachs, Nike, and Gatorade, making her the first college athlete to sign with State Farm. 

After breaking the scoring record on March 3, Clark’s estimated net worth jumped from $910,000 to $3.1 million, surpassing LSU’s Angel Reese and Flau’jae Johnson as the highest-earning NCAA women’s basketball player, and is currently ranked the fourth highest-earning athlete eligible for NIL money. 

Clark’s popularity and record-breaking performances have landed her prestigious sponsorships and endorsements—she is expected to make $77,000 in her rookie season in the WNBA with the potential to make an additional $350,000.

Clark’s performance throughout her career at Iowa has been incredibly notable—with 35,324 active NCAA DI participants, she had a 0.0028 percent chance of out-scoring her active opponents, not to mention the countless alumni. 

Her breaking of the NCAA scoring record has sparked a new wave of female athletes being seen as equals to male athletes. Clark has elevated the reputation of women’s sports and will continue to do so as she progresses in her professional career. 

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About the Contributor
Kaitlyn Smitten, Staff Writer
Kaitlyn Smitten (she/her) is a freshman journalism student from Red Deer, Alberta. Canada. Kaitlyn is a part of the Emerson College softball team and enjoys traveling, reading, and listening to music. She aspires to be an investigative and/or breaking news reporter.

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  • M

    Mali Crosby / Mar 11, 2024 at 7:33 pm

    very strange to choose to diminish the accomplishments of two black women in this…

    Reply