Iowa’s Caitlin Clark is a transformational player at a time when interest in women’s sports is exploding. She makes clutch plays with ease. “Caitlin has ice in her veins, and everyone knows it”, said head coach Lisa Bluder. Some of the younger Iowa fans attending the game in Lincoln, Nebraska on Sunday compared her to megastar Taylor Swift. Is that a fair comparison? Let’s look.
Taylor Swift has set massive attendance records, Grammy records (she has 13), number of songs that have been downloaded and has captured the nation’s attention, even before she started dating Kansas City Chief’s Travis Kelce. Forbes has her Net Worth at $1.1 billion. She has set the music world on fire.
Like Swift’s impact on the music industry, college women’s basketball has never seen numbers like Clark’s. Clark performs under pressure at a level rarely seen. She has hit crucial buzzer beaters from the 3-point line in the last two years, most against top 10 ranked opponents. But it’s not just her scoring; she broke 1,000 assists for her career against in Sunday’s 82-79 loss to Nebraska. It’s quite possible she could break Gonzaga’s Courtney Vandersloot’s record of 1,118 before the season ends.
According to @CBBAnalyst, over the last four years Clark’s shot charts indicate a staggering 60% scoring rate on 2 point shots; a 40% scoring rate for 3 point shots and, for all shots before Sunday’s game vs Nebraska, she’s made 247 out of 512 shots taken. Notable are the consistent number of made shots around and outside the left side of the 3 point line, a deadly area to defend, especially when the clock is running out. She is now the all-time leading scorer in Iowa women’s basketball history, surpassing Megan Gustafson who had 2,805 between 2015-2019.
Kansas’ Lynnette Woodard scored the most points-3,649, in the late 70’s-early 80s during the transition from the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) to the NCAA. In NCAA history, the University of Washington’s Kelsey Plum’s has led with 3,527 career points.
Her impact on the NIL space lives in rarefied air. She has signed deals with State Farm Insurance, Gatorade, Nike
Clark has played in front of sellout crowds both home and away in nearly every game this season. The Iowa (and the Caitlin Clark) fans that follow the team around the Big Ten sometimes overwhelm the home crowd. Security guards escort her every time she goes from the locker room to the court and back. Mothers and daughters scramble to get to a place in the arena where they might be able to get an autograph. Sideline reporters who want to interview her during or after the game can no longer do it on the sidelines—they must move her to mid-court so security can keep the fans at bay. Earlier this season, Iowa played in front of 55,464fans in venerable Kinnick Stadium against DePaul University.
The television ratings are huge. When Maryland faced Iowa in early February, the 1.58 million fans tuned in to watch, “trailing only Iowa-Ohio State last month as the most-watched regular season women’s game since 2010”, according to Sports Media Watch.
Fox Sports has added a Caitlin Clark “CaitlinCam” TikTok feed that follows her anywhere she goes on the court during the game. According to Sports Business Journal, the Tik Tok feed during the Maryland game garnered 150,000 views, while 800,000 watched the highlights.
Swift’s fans dominate the music industry; she is clearly one of the highest paid performers in entertainment history when compared to both her peers and to history. Clark, too, is dominating the game of women’s basketball and attracting more interest to the game than any other moment in college sports history.
The young fans holding up signs comparing the two are spot on. Both are taking their industries to a whole new level. As one sign read, “What Super Bowl? I love Caitlin Clark”.