For Women’s Basketball, Caitlin Clark’s Lasting Impact May Be Economic

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People have flocked to watch the Iowa star on TV and in person at a time when her sport is more valuable than it ever was before.

Caitlin Clark, the University of Iowa basketball player who has dazzled crowds with her deep shooting range and preternatural scoring ability, is one of the biggest draws in sports.

Tickets to her games this season were nearly 200 percent more expensive than they were last year, according to Vivid Seats, a ticket exchange and resale company. Fans routinely traveled hundreds of miles to catch a glimpse of her, lining up for hours before tipoff and boosting local economies.

Nearly 10 million people, a record, watched her play in last year’s championship game, a loss to Louisiana State. More than three million tuned in this year when she set the career record for points scored by a Division I college basketball player.

Ms. Clark and top-seeded Iowa begin N.C.A.A. tournament play on Saturday.Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Now, as Ms. Clark prepares for her final N.C.A.A. tournament — No. 1-seeded Iowa plays its first game on Saturday — excitement has reached a fever pitch. It has some wondering if Ms. Clark’s effect on the popularity of women’s sports, and their economics, will linger after her career at Iowa ends.

Viewership, juiced by media rights deals, and corporate sponsorships are the key drivers of revenue for college and professional sports. In women’s sports, those have long lagged behind what men’s sports receive. In 2019, for instance, women’s sports programming accounted for less than 6 percent of coverage on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” according to a study.

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