OT: The Caitlin Clark effect

Caitlin Clark celebrates after becoming the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division 1 Women’s History in Iowa’s Feb. 15 win vs. Michigan. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

JAKE KAUFMAN | STAFF REPORTER | jfkaufman@butler.edu

Overtime, or “OT,” is an opinion column series where the Collegian takes national sports headlines or polarizing topics and gives them a Butler-centric angle

Caitlin Clark may just be the best show in sports right now. 

The Iowa Hawkeye senior guard is currently averaging 32.1 points, 8.5 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game while making an average of 5.3 three-pointers a game. For context, Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry’s — widely considered the greatest shooter of all time — highest average is also 5.3 three-pointers per game. In Iowa’s Feb. 15 106-89 victory over The University of Michigan, Clark scored a career-high 49 points to become the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history, passing Kelsey Plum

She has helped Iowa sell out every home game this season and also contributed to nearly all of the team’s road games selling out as well. The ticket prices for her games have skyrocketed, and the upcoming Big Ten Tournament — which Iowa is playing in — is sold out for the first time in history. Her stardom has given Iowa the FOX prime-time slot multiple times this year, a slot rarely given to women’s basketball outside of Connecticut. Owen O’Keefe, a sophomore sports media and strategic communication double major, reflected on how Clark’s unique aura allows her to accomplish this. 

“FOX and other networks are able to put their games on prime-time slots because you have a very marketable athlete,” O’Keefe said. “If you have Nebraska playing IU, not many people are going to tune in, but if you throw Caitlin [Clark] in there and market it all week, people are going to tune in because they want to watch Caitlin Clark.” 

At her current pace this season, Clark will likely become the second college basketball player ever to lead the country in both scoring and assists, along with current Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young. She is also approaching two other scoring milestones. She is 32 points behind Lynette Woodard for the all-time major women’s college basketball record and 50 points behind Pete Maravich for the all-time Division I basketball scoring record

Although Clark’s popularity and notoriety have soared in recent years, she has been a superstar since high school. Sophomore Butler guard Jordan Meulemans, who played against Clark in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), could tell right away that she had the ability to control the entire game. 

“It was not just her scoring,” Meulemans said. “It was her passing, her playmaking ability and her confidence on the floor that caused composure not just for herself, but her teammates as well.” 

It is Clark’s total command of the game and unique style that has drawn so many fans toward her. 

Clark does not simply take deep threes. She takes threes that are so deep that it’s almost unprecedented. In fact, the average distance of her three-pointers during the 2022-23 season was 25 feet, 11 inches, nearly four feet behind the college three-point line. The ability to shoot from that far out is remarkable, as Abby Phillips, first-year speech, language and hearing sciences major and former high school basketball player, noted.

“She is shooting past even what the NBA line would be,” Phillips said. “The strength that someone has to have to be able to continuously do that throughout the entire game is just crazy.” 

She isn’t just having success on the court though. With her recent success, Clark has become Fanatics top-selling college athlete in the NIL era, passing Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders. She has signed deals with Gatorade and Nike among other major brands and has appeared in numerous State Farm commercials. 

She has opened people’s eyes to what is truly possible for women college basketball players and all female athletes in general. In a way, she has created a path for others to walk through, as Meulemans notes. 

“It’s really cool seeing a female basketball player do this because we can follow in her footsteps,” Meulemans said. “Just a few years ago, opportunities like hers were pretty much reserved for the men, but now they are really trying to open the door for us.” 

This season isn’t the first time we are hearing about Clark. Her and Iowa’s NCAA tournament run to the championship game against Louisiana State University last season put her on the map. The 2023 National Championship brought in an average of nearly 10 million viewers, a 103% increase from the 2022 championship. This was not only the most-watched game in women’s college basketball history, but also the most-watched college basketball game ever on ESPN’s platforms

A lot of her impact, however, cannot be measured in numbers. It has been a common trope for a lot of regular guys to think that they could beat a women’s basketball player and overall mock the skill of the players. However, people seem to have different opinions about that as it relates to Clark for multiple reasons.

“A lot of [men] like to say that they could easily beat a women’s basketball player,” Phillips said. “But I do not really think there is very many non-collegiate basketball players who would say ‘Yeah, I can beat Caitlin Clark.’ I think a lot of it has to do with the way that she composes herself.” 

Clark will have a difficult decision to make when her senior season comes to an end. She has the option to take a fifth season at Iowa, stretch the record books even further and spend more time with — as she calls them — her “best friends.” The other option is entering the 2024 WNBA draft, where she would almost assuredly go to the Indiana Fever who have the number one pick. 

Regardless of whatever decision she makes, be sure to enjoy her time at Iowa while it is still here. There is a good chance we will never see anything quite like Caitlin Clark again.


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