Everyone knows that during her dominant run to lead Iowa to the national championship game, all eyes were on Caitlin Clark. She shined under the spotlight and she grew to fame being known as one of the best shooters, if not the best, in women’s basketball.
Throughout the offseason, Clark expanded her NIL name tremendously. She is the first athlete to secure an NIL deal with State Farm. Before last season even began, she also signed a deal with Nike. Other notable college athletes that signed with Nike include Bronny James (USC), Haley Jones (Stanford), DJ Wagner (Kentucky) and Juju Watkins (USC). After she was seen wearing them during the NCAA Tournament, Clark signed with Bose Headphones. A lot of high profile athletes are also in partnership with Bose, including Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Westbrook, all from the NFL. To add to the long list, Clark is also signed with Buick Automotive, H&R Block, Topps, Shoot-A-Way, Goldman Sachs, Hy-Vee and The Vinyl Shot.
Clark has changed women’s basketball to be one of the most popular sports in Iowa and has caught the attention of the entire nation after last season’s March Madness tournament. Clark and Iowa women’s basketball started the pre-season strong, breaking history by playing a scrimmage in a football stadium. The Hawkeyes set the NCAA attendance record in their exhibition game at Kinnick Stadium with 55,646 fans. They nearly filled a football stadium for a basketball pre-season game, which is absolutely wild. To set the attendance record for an NCAA women’s basketball game, the court was positioned vertically in the north end zone.
During the “Crossover at Kinnick,” they made a point to participate in one of their traditions of waving up to the Children’s Hospital that overlooks the stadium, Both teams stopped after the first quarter to wave up to the children in the hospital just like the Iowa football team does after the first quarter of their own games. The athletic department at Iowa also presented the Children’s Hospital with a $250,000 donation.
Clark has always been involved in giving back to kids and young girls especially. She wants to be someone who young girls look up to and know that they can achieve their dreams as well. “I want my legacy to be the impact I have on young kids and the people of Iowa,” Clark said after the national title game loss over LSU. “I was that young girl. All you have to do is dream, and you can be in moments like this.”
This game was similar to the Nebraska volleyball game in the way of advancing women’s sports. Iowa’s exhibition game was well short of the women’s sporting event attendance record, as Nebraska hit that mark in late August. The Cornhuskers volleyball team sold out Memorial Stadium with 92,003 fans for a match against Omaha. The event set the attendance record at the Huskers’ football stadium and broke the world record for attendance at a women’s sporting event as a whole. Before the volleyball event, FC Barcelono Femení had the record set the year prior.
Going back to Clark, in the exhibition game, she finished with a triple double, tallying 34 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Iowa defeated DePaul 94-72 and Clark shot 13-of-26 from the field. For the Blue Demons, Anaya Peoples led their offense with 19 points and five rebounds. DePaul is a member of the Big East conference; they finished the season with a 16-17 overall record and missed the NCAA tournament for the third time in the past four seasons.
Last season the Hawkeyes made it to their first national title game but fell short to Angel Reese and LSU in the championship game down in Dallas. Nonetheless, Clark got her recognition by being named the John R. Wooden Award winner last season, completing a clean sweep of the National Player of the Year awards. She was the second-best scorer in the nation behind Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist, averaging 27.8 points per game and averaging the Division I best with 8.6 assists and 7.1 rebounds per game.
Year by year, Clark is one of the athletes that is changing women’s sports. She was the star of the NCAA tournament last season and only looks to take Iowa to those heights once again. She is entering her senior season but is going to soak up every moment of her college career before she is eligible for the WNBA Draft. Title IX is paving the way for women sports and Clark is at the face of it. Christine Grant pushed for full implementation of Title IX, the federal legislation passed in 1972 that requires equal opportunities in both athletics and academics for women. Other star women athletes include Reese, Paige Bueckers (UConn), Hailey Van Lith (LSU), Cameron Brink (Stanford) and so many more are evolving the game. Basketball season is upon and people are highly anticipating what women’s basketball will bring this season. All in all, the hype of Clark will not be ending anytime soon.