Caitlin Clark Smashes the Records on Court and with the Crowd

Caitlin Clark, a senior with the University of Iowa Hawkeyes women’s basketball team, has broken numerous records throughout her four-year career at the school. Not only has she excelled at basketball, but Clark is also responsible for an economic boom in college sports.  

Basketball Beginnings 

Clark was born on January 22, 2002, and grew up in West Des Moines, Iowa. College athletics have always been a part of the Clark family’s life. Her father played baseball and basketball at Simpson College in Iowa, and her brother is a reserve quarterback for the Iowa State football team. 

Clark grew up playing sports with her brothers in their backyard. There were limited basketball opportunities for young girls in West Des Moines. In elementary school, she joined the all-boys team. Clark enjoyed many activities in school, including volleyball, softball, tennis, and piano. She loved basketball, and by the sixth grade, focused her life on the sport.  

Clark worked hard to become a talented basketball player. She was one of the top basketball athletes in the United States by her sophomore year at Dowling Catholic High School. After receiving many awards for her performance and offers from multiple colleges, Clark chose to attend the University of Iowa in 2019. 

Time at the University of Iowa 

Full-length view of two mixed-race women playing basketball, both reaching for the ball against a white background
Caitlin Clark has left an impact on college basketball.

During her years on the University of Iowa’s basketball team, Clark broke multiple records. She was the leading scorer in both her freshman and sophomore years. Most recently, she has piled up the most 30-point games by any woman or man in Division I basketball in the past 25 seasons. (Division I schools have large athletic budgets and offer numerous scholarships to athletes and are part of the large athletic conferences.)  

Even though she is eligible to play another year at the college level, Clark announced in February 2024 that she would become a professional basketball player. She will play for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). Clark is expected to be the first draft choice to play for the Indiana Fever. 

The Economic Effect 

Clark’s success has created an enormous economic payoff for women’s college basketball. In 2024, Clark’s appearance has resulted in sold-out arenas. Fans have spent thousands of dollars to travel to see her play all over the country. The average distance traveled by a fan to watch Iowa play is up 34 percent from 2023. When the women Hawkeyes’ game is broadcast on television, there is record viewership. For example, on February 3, 2024, when the Iowa Hawkeyes played the Maryland Terrapins, almost 1.6 million viewers watched the game on Fox Sports––a network record for women’s basketball.  

In 2023, the total revenue for the University of Iowa’s Athletic Department was $16 million more than in 2022. University officials point to a boost in ticket sales for men’s football and women’s basketball. The ticket revenue for women’s basketball nearly doubled. And, for the first time in history, this year’s Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament sold out.  

Professional basketball players, coaches, and sports analysts believe that Clark has sparked the imaginations of young girls everywhere. Young fans, who wait in long lines for Clark’s picture and autograph, see her as a role model. Although she is a precise shooter, Clark refuses to be the player who must always control the basketball. She believes in teamwork and attributes her success to long practice hours.  

Dig Deeper Research online to identify other female athletes who have risen to the top of their sport like Caitlin Clark has. What has been the economic impact on their sport because of their achievements?