Families flock to attend an Iowa womens basketball March Madness game against Holy Cross at Carver-Hawkeye Arena March 23.
Families flock to attend an Iowa womens basketball March Madness game against Holy Cross at Carver-Hawkeye Arena March 23.
Tyler Shane

The CC effect

Smashing records, selling out arenas and shooting threes, the Iowa women’s basketball team has become an inspiration everywhere. Caitlin Clark’s legacy transcends her record-breaking career, as she has brought together Iowans and basketball fans across the nation.

The shot clock counts down five…four…three…two… the Carver-Hawkeye Arena is dead silent as everyone in the crowd — young fans with signs, long-time ticket holders, families and friends — watch in anticipation as number 22 dribbles and takes the shot. The ball swishes into the net milliseconds before the buzzer sounds, and the crowd goes crazy. This is the Caitlin Clark Effect.

A six-minute drive from West to the Carver-Hawkeye Arena is all it takes to witness a highly sought-after and completely sold-out Iowa Hawkeye women’s basketball game. The Iowa women’s basketball team is not only an Iowa City phenomenon but a national sensation, headlining every sports news outlet and leaving their legacy in women’s collegiate sports.

Before Caitlin Clark’s rise to fame, Iowa women’s basketball was often overlooked. The average attendance for Iowa women’s games in the 2019-20 season was around 7,100. However, in the 2023-24 season, these averages have skyrocketed, as attendance has doubled to almost 15,000.

Prior to the start of this year’s season, the Hawkeyes faced off against the DePaul University Blue Demons in an exhibition game on Oct. 15, 2023. Making history in Kinnick Stadium, this event recorded the highest attendance of a women’s basketball game, at 55,646 fans. Even at the end of the season, Hawkeye fans continue to stay invested. In just 30 minutes, tickets for the NCAA March Madness first and second rounds sold out at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena against Holy Cross and West Virginia, respectively.

Clark has also contributed to increased viewership across the entirety of women’s college basketball, shooting up streams online and in-person attendance. This past season, the audience at women’s basketball games has increased by over 60% across all national networks. These uprisings coincide with more coverage for women’s sports, especially for Iowa women’s basketball. 

Brandee Britt, the Director of Social Media and Digital Strategy at the University of Iowa Athletic Department, explains how there wasn’t as much media focus on the Iowa women’s basketball program before the team’s heightened success with Clark.

“It was just at a much smaller level. [News outlets] just send one reporter from each outlet and maybe there are three or four people in your weekly press conferences. That was a good day. It just was different,” Britt said. 

Britt is still in shock with the amount of media traction Iowa gathers now. 

“The guy that does [telecommunications], he gets hundreds of emails a day requesting Caitlin and Bluder and [company] for interviews, and he has to turn down so many because there’s just not enough time in a day right?” Britt said.

With more attention on the program, more brands are seeking partnerships with Clark and the team. When Clark broke the all-time scoring record, Nike participated in the celebration, releasing merchandise. Britt expresses how important this was from a marketing perspective. 

“In a marketing social world, you look at [Nike] as one of the top dogs, and so it’s kind of cool to just be a part of it and have a hand in that. I had a hand in when she broke Kelsey Plum’s [scoring] record. [Nike’s] printed posters and the social media posts, we sent those pictures in, and those got approval,” Britt said. 

Isabella Tisdale ’24, a photojournalist for the Daily Iowan, touches on how monumental it is to see this type of exposure for a collegiate athlete. 

“When you live in [Iowa City], and you see Caitlin Clark down the street, but you also see giant posters of her downtown, it’s a crazy experience,” Tisdale said. 

From a media standpoint, the program’s rise to fame has had many benefits. Owen Aanestad ’22, a photography intern at the University of Iowa athletics department, has found enhanced success in his work photographing Clark. 

“It’s really helped my career and my portfolio, just because everybody knows who Caitlin Clark is, so because I’m at Iowa and because I get to capture Caitlin Clark, I kind of have that leg up. People around the country, they’re gonna know who Caitlin Clark is when they see that picture,” Aanestad said. 

Clark and the Iowa women’s basketball program have not only captivated local audiences but also viewers on a national scale. Aanestad believes that the most significant part of the program’s newfound popularity is how it brought Iowans together and the national stage that Iowa has been put on. 

“The women’s basketball team [has] a big presence in Iowa City. No matter what your interests are, no matter what you think about sports, you’re aware of the impact that that team and Caitlin have had on the city and what it’s brought them, and the national attention that has [been] drawn to Iowa,” Aanestad said. 

Clark and the women’s basketball team continue to shatter records, keeping basketball fans on their toes.

Becky Peterson — former West media secretary and assistant girls basketball coach — has been a long-time Hawkeye fan. Peterson began regularly attending the Iowa Women’s basketball games around 15 years ago when she first moved to Iowa City. After settling down and having kids, the women’s games became a way to bond with family.
Peterson recalls her early years of attending games when crowds would peak around 1,000.

“For weekday games, they would try to make it smaller and more intimate, so they would put curtains down on three-quarters of the seats,” Peterson said. “Fast-forward now, it’s crazy. We have to leave the house at least an hour before game time so we have time to get in the long car lines into the parking lot.”

Brandee Britt, the Director of Social Media and Digital Strategy at the University of Iowa Athletic Department, believes that the environment at the women’s games is unique to the team. With a blend of new and old fans, the women’s team brings a fanbase like no other.

“We have 15,000 [fans and] they’re loud. Now, there are a lot more youthful voices in that crowd, which is awesome for the next generation. Sports are a big part of my family connections,” Britt said. “I’m witnessing these [same] family connections happen around women’s basketball and I’m so excited because I feel that brought a lot of good in my relationships.”

West varsity girls basketball head coach and English teacher Nate Frese has held the highly coveted season tickets for seven consecutive years. Frese initially bought the tickets when his daughter became interested in basketball. Being in the crowd for so many years, Frese credits Coach Lisa Bluder’s coaching style for impacting the energy in the crowd and unifying the Hawkeye community.

“I appreciate the way they play [and] the way that they coach even if I don’t necessarily coach that way,” Frese said. “They are all very team-first and family-oriented. They try to build a family, and it’s really engaging to watch from the sidelines, in addition to the product on the court.”
Frese also notes how Clark has elevated the game since becoming a Hawkeye.

“There’s a greater unifying factor to Clark and that’s what changed,” Frese said. “[Other players] just didn’t have the dynamism we see from Clark…You know how many people [not only] in our state but certainly around the country are now out shooting logo threes because they want to be the next Caitlin Clark.”

Frese appreciates the significance of having these prominent basketball players in such close proximity to West.

“If you have that right in your backyard, there’s no way that it’s not influencing young players in the area,” Frese said. “There’ll be other great players. I just don’t know that they’ll be two miles away, that part of it is pretty awe-inspiring.”

While most fans admire Clark solely for her abilities on the court, Peterson appreciates the way her skills have brought well-deserved recognition to others.

“[I] feel that Caitlin can shine the spotlight on other stories of women who played before the NCAA,” Peterson said. “[She] shines a light on every record she passes, [and on those] whose record she’s broken.”

Like Peterson, Britt is grateful for the recognition Clark has brought to the women’s basketball team and the sport.

“You have a player who captivates people and [draws] people to watch a sport regardless of gender, and we’re breaking barriers,” Britt said. “Caitlin’s light shines on everybody else. She’s brought a lot of attention, but now that attention has floated to the rest of the team and the state. People are coming to watch Caitlin Clark and staying to watch women’s basketball.”

Britt also recognizes Clark’s impact on the entirety of women’s basketball and on the new Hawkeye fans.

“You come to Carver and you’re seeing the bigger story here and how [the women] impacted women’s basketball, you have fans in the stands that are inspired by Caitlin Clark. For example, on the drive home after the Ohio State game, at home, I see an older man, who’s washing his car in his Caitlin Clark shirt. Next door, kids were outside playing basketball with their parents, little kids wearing Caitlin Clark merch shooting a ball in,” Britt said. “That’s the impact it excites me because those little kids, all they have seen in their lifetime is a sold-out crowd for women’s basketball. They don’t know anything different.”

A rack of Caitlin Clark shirts showcasing her jersey number stands outside Carver-Hawkeye Arena before the first NCAA March Madness game for the Iowa womens basketball team March 23. (Anna Song)

While older generations of women’s collegiate basketball and women’s sports haven’t received enough credit, Britt believes that this phenomenon and the Caitlin Clark Effect will and has already impacted future generations.

“That’s where the expectation is now. We’ve risen to that occasion, now let’s keep rising,” Britt said. “All [kids] have seen is women and men on the equal playing field because they’re tuning into the women just as much as they’re tuning into the men. That is where I think it’s gonna keep growing because that generation knows something different than we knew when we were kids.”

With Clark declaring her entrance into the 2024 WNBA Draft on Feb. 29, many fans wonder what this will mean for the future of the Iowa Hawkeye women’s basketball team. Frese, however, believes in living in the moment.

“This is a Mount Rushmore-type figure,” Frese said. “That’s really neat for an area that’s our size and Iowa City. It just doesn’t happen that often.”
As for the future of Iowa City’s local basketball sensation, Frese foresees Clark’s influence becoming global.

“I think you can see the trajectory here,” Frese said. “Within a couple of years, there are gonna be Caitlin Clark Indiana Fever jerseys on little kids in France, and in Sudan and Singapore. I just see that coming.”
As an Iowa native, Peterson feels a strong connection to Clark, who grew up in West Des Moines and decided to stay in Iowa after graduating from Dowling Catholic High School.

“It’s cool, and then just the pride to have an Iowa girl staying home and representing our state. Iowans take an immense amount of pride in Caitlin Clark, but she’s homegrown,” Peterson said. “Iowans are proud people anyway, but when it’s one of our own, everybody’s behind her, except for maybe Iowa State fans.”

Peterson and her husband constantly remind their children, “‘You guys don’t understand how spoiled you are to get to see this.’ We try to tell them [but] I don’t know if they understand,’” Peterson said. “We will probably never see a player like this again at Iowa.”



While Caitlin Clark’s impact on the Iowa City community and fans nationwide has been astronomical, her immense impact on revenue generation for those around her has also skyrocketed, so much so that some refer to this phenomenon as “Clarkonomics.”

For the first time in Iowa Women’s Basketball history, season tickets for the 2023-24 season are completely sold out. Matt Henderson, the University of Iowa’s Deputy Director of Athletics oversees revenue and external relations. He notes the notable growth the team has had.

“It was really exciting this year that we were able to sell out [Iowa] women’s basketball on a season ticket basis,” Henderson said. “If you look back over the last five years or so we’ve seen a really strong continued growth in our women’s basketball attendance and clearly that’s attributable to the success the student-athletes are having on the court.”

While the Iowa women’s basketball program has experienced substantial success and growth since its last season, leading them to the NCAA March Madness championship game, its revenue has yet to exceed its expenses.

“Football and mens basketball are the only two sports [at the University of Iowa] that generate more revenue than their expenses,” Henderson said. “So football is a big driver of the revenue that is providing opportunities for all 22 sports that we have.”

Despite not surpassing the expense, Henderson sees an optimistic future for the program. 

“We assumed that we were going to see growth in women’s basketball. Now it’s critical that we stay focused on that and continue to drive strong attendance numbers and people aren’t here just for one year, [but] that we’ve creed a great experience that they want to come back and support the team next year, and the five years down the road. I want people to be talking about how Iowa still sells out. I think that’s a good goal all of us have,” Henderson said.

Henderson hopes that the flame will keep burning after Clark and that this is the start of building a program with strong, devoted fans.

“Again, it’s our responsibility to make sure that we create an environment that is still exciting and fun for our fans to come to. The goal is, five, 10 years from now that people still see us as a leader in attendance for women’s basketball,” Henderson said.

As the Director of Athletics, Henderson congratulates Clark on her successful career as a Hawkeye and acknowledges her role in not just the spotlight on Iowa but the light she shed on women’s sport as a whole. 

“She’s been a remarkable, talented player. I think she’s an incredible person outside of basketball and such a wonderful spokesperson for the game [and] the institution.”

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About the Contributors
Anna Song
Anna Song, Print Assistant Design Editor
(she/her) Anna Song is a junior at West High School and is excited for her second year on the West Side Story staff. This year she will be the assistant design editor on print staff. Outside the newsroom, she can be found either playing the violin, listening to music, browsing Pinterest, napping or eating.
Gianna Liu
Gianna Liu, Print Sports and Photo Editor
(she/her) Gianna is a Junior and is starting her second year on staff! She is the Photo and Sports Editor this year for print, which is exactly what she loves to do: photography and volleyball! When she isn't doing those or writing, you will catch her binge-watching K-dramas, reading (fiction), biking or perfecting her skin-care routine.
Celia Sadewasser
Celia Sadewasser, FOJ Intern
Celia is a sophomore at West. She is so excited to be a FOJ Intern this year.
Tyler Shane
Tyler Shane, FOJ Intern
Tyler is a sophomore at West. He is an intern and this is his first year on staff. If not at practice, he's probably at home sleeping.
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