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Post students feel ‘The Caitlin Clark Effect’

By Myra Mulongoti, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Caitlin Clark has left her imprint on women’s basketball, while simultaneously rewriting the narrative surrounding women’s sports. Her record-breaking collegiate career with the Iowa Hawkeyes at The University of Iowa has been nothing short of legendary. She is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division-1 all-time leading scorer and two-time national player of the year, to name a few of her many accolades. She was recently the first pick of the 2024 Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) draft by the Indiana Fever.

During her time with the Hawkeyes, she transcended the sport, becoming a cultural icon. Her legacy led to a cultural phenomenon dubbed in the media as “The Caitlin Clark Effect.” The term is used to describe the effect Clark has had on popularizing women’s collegiate basketball. The effect is demonstrated by an increase in ticket sales, attendance and TV viewership of games involving the Hawkeyes. 

The Hawkeyes’ recent game against defending champions Louisiana State University (LSU) was the most-watched women’s basketball game in NCAA history with more than 12 million people tuning in. For the most recent season, the Hawkeyes sold out their season tickets for their entire home schedule for the first time in the school’s history. And, as of 2024, Feb. 22 is officially Caitlin Clark Day in Iowa state.

Further, Clark’s talent and stardom have earned her a lucrative name, image, likeness and (NIL) deal. Her NIL deal is estimated at $3.1 million, making her one of the highest-earning college athletes.

Post students are not immune to “The Caitlin Clark Effect” and they shared their thoughts on the basketball star.

Freshman digital marketing and sports management major Hailey Holbdy became a fan of Clark during her time with the Hawkeyes and has a long-standing passion for women’s basketball.

“I just recently became a fan when she was really blowing up in Iowa,” Holbdy shared. “I used to play basketball growing up. I played competitively. And, it’s been incredible seeing a woman doing all of the things that I had once strived to do.”

Another student, freshman broadcasting major Michael Voltaggio, shared his experience with Clark and women’s basketball.

“I would say that I most definitely recently became a fan. Call me a bandwagon, if you will, but I think what Caitlin Clark has been able to do for the game, it’s been hard not to take notice, especially with the excitement and the energy that she’s brought to the game,” Voltaggio said. “I think I’m one of those people who’s really starting to actively talk about her and the sport of women’s basketball.”

Photo credits: John McClellan

Many wonder what sets Clark apart from other women’s basketball players and has led her to become the cultural icon she is. Speculation surrounds what makes Clark so special on and off the court. Holbdy believes that Clark’s early career, competitive spirit and humility are the magic ingredients.

“She grew up playing basketball with boys, and she played on a lot of different travel teams that they didn’t have for girls,” she said. “And so I think she just grew up knowing and believing that it didn’t matter who she was on the court with, guys or girls. She was gonna go out there and just do what she had to do. And I think that’s really special. And I think people really appreciate someone who is so competitive and yet still so humble.”

Voltaggio agrees with this line of thinking, highlighting Clark’s talent and mindset as her defining characteristics.
  “I think just her pure talent and her skill [sets her apart],” he stated. “She’s making shots that were unheard of in the game of women’s basketball. She’s pulling up from the logo, from half-court. She’s getting double-teamed and she’s still making shots, which is something that, until this point, was very infrequent in the game of women’s basketball. But also something that sticks out to me about Caitlin Clark and something that I think makes her so likable is the fact that she’s very humble.”

Parallels have been drawn between Clark’s shooting prowess and that of NBA star Steph Curry. She is known for her unbelievable shots from long distances. Voltaggio shared his thoughts on the Steph Curry comparisons.

“I think of 2015/2016 Steph Curry, when he was getting triple-teamed and still making three-pointers in defenders’ faces. I think we’re seeing Caitlin Clark do something eerily similar to what Steph Curry was doing in 2016,” he said. “I think it also sets a very high expectation for Caitlin Clark because you’re comparing her to one of the most influential and arguably one of the best basketball players of all time in the NBA.”

On the other hand, Holbdy believes the Steph Curry comparisons do not fully encapsulate Clark’s skills on the court.

“She is obviously an incredible shooter. But [the comparison] doesn’t even capture it all,” Holbdy stated. “She’s great on defense. She’s a great facilitator on offense. She’s a good passer. She’s really good under the rim. She’s really just an all-around excellent basketball player. But, the comparison is only giving her more of a following, because Steph Curry is someone who people consider to be one of the greatest of all time and so it’s an honor.”

Off the court, Clark is having a seismic effect on media coverage of women’s basketball. Holbdy discussed Clark’s effect on women’s sports as a whole.

“I think a lot of people prefer a men’s version of a sport to a woman’s because they think it’s less exciting and that men are stronger and they’re taller and they’re faster,” she stated. “And, she’s out there proving that you can be just as exciting and the fans can get just as involved, even if maybe you are shorter or you’re not dunking or whatever. And, I think it’s made a big impact on women’s sports.”

Voltaggio agrees with this assessment of Clark’s effect on women’s sports, but also highlights the other talented athletes that have led to this shift.

“There really weren’t many people talking about women’s basketball like they are now, and I think that has a big part to do with Caitlin Clark,” Voltaggio stated. “But not only her, but a lot of other women’s athletes in college basketball. So this kind of shift in, in the media coverage of women’s basketball, I think is something that’s great for the game and great for women’s athletes altogether.”

As Clark transitions to the professional stage with the Indiana Fever, her legacy as a transformative figure in women’s basketball is already established. Clark has redefined the game and the narrative surrounding women’s sports. Now, fans eagerly await for “The Caitlin Clark Effect” to hit the WNBA when the season starts in May. 

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