Caitlin Clark Can't Stop Breaking Records

The Iowa superstar keeps breaking records, even when it comes to television ratings.
Caitlin Clark
Caitlin Clark / Matthew Holst/GettyImages

Caitlin Clark's college career is winding down. The 22-year-old senior announced her intention to declare for the 2024 WNBA Draft earlier this month, foregoing the chance to use her extra year of COVID eligibility. She has enjoyed quite the send-off season. Clark has continued to set records on her way out the door, and will go down as arguably the most prolific player in college basketball history.

Clark has broken multiple Division I records at Iowa over the last five months. To name a few, Clark is Iowa's all-time women's leading scorer, the Big Ten's all-time women's leader in assists and points, the NCAA's Division I women's career scoring leader, and the all-time leader in points scored in Division I history, breaking Pete Maravich's 54-year-old record.

The one thing missing from her resume is a national championship. Clark led the Hawkeyes to a No. 1 seed in the 2024 NCAA women's basketball tournament, and it isn't surprising the audience is excited to watch her make one final run. Even so, the ratings from Iowa's opening weekend of tournament games are eye-opening.

On Saturday night, Clark took an elbow to the face right off the bat against Holy Cross but still dropped 27 points and dished out 10 assists in a 91-65 win. ESPN announced the game drew 3.2 million viewers, the highest number recorded for any non-Final Four women's tournament game. It is an incredibly impressive number considering Clark had an average outing by her standards and the game wasn't competitive.

Two days later, Iowa one-upped itself in the viewership department. The Hawkeyes took on No. 8 seed West Virginia and scraped by with a 64-54 win. It was not without controversy, either, as questionable officiating decisions distracted from Clarks' 32-point, eight-rebound stat line. Regardless, it led to an average audience of 4.9 million viewers, and ESPN said the numbers peaked at 6.4 million. That obviously breaks the previous record set by Iowa on Saturday, and is now the third-most watched women's NCAA tournament game in the last 20 years.

It's an absolutely massive number no matter which way you slice it. The contest had the drama, controversy and star power required for a big audience. More people watched this Second Round game than any women's National Championship game from 2005-2022. That is the power of Caitlin Clark.

We should have expected this. Clark has already helped shatter viewership records. During the 2023 Final Four, Iowa's games against South Carolina and LSU, respectively, became the two highest-viewed women's college basketball games ever. To put the numbers into perspective, nearly as many people watched Clark take on LSU in the 2023 National Championship Game (9.92 million) as watched the Texas Rangers clinch their first World Series championship (11.4 million).

We're watching history unfold before our eyes. Clark's Iowa teams drawing this kind of viewership is a landmark moment for all women's sports, not just college basketball. If anything it provides a simple reminder: people just want to watch great players play, no matter who they are.

Appreciate the Iowa superstar while you can. There are millions of people around the country doing just that.

Liam McKeone is a staff writer at The Big Lead.


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Liam McKeone

LIAM MCKEONE

Liam McKeone is a senior writer for the Breaking and Trending News team at Sports Illustrated. He has been in the industry as a content creator since 2017, and prior to joining SI in May 2024, McKeone worked for NBC Sports Boston and The Big Lead. In addition to his work as a writer, he has hosted the Press Pass Podcast covering sports media and The Big Stream covering pop culture. A graduate of Fordham University, he is always up for a good debate and enjoys loudly arguing about sports, rap music, books and video games. McKeone has been a member of the National Sports Media Association since 2020.