Iowa guard Caitlin Clark (22) and Iowa guard Gabbie Marshall (24) pose for a photo after the Big Ten Tournament championship game at the Target Center on Sunday, March 10, 2024, in Minneapolis, Minn. Credit: The Des Moines Register

To say that college basketball viewers are crazy for Caitlin Clark would be an understatement.

Of the five most-watched men’s or women’s college basketball games of the season, Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes played in two of them. Their game against Ohio State, in which the phenom broke the overall NCAA scoring record, averaged 3.39 million viewers. Iowa’s win over Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship averaged 3.02 million viewers.

No wonder Fox reportedly considered pitching an NIL deal to tempt Clark to stay in school.

For reference, only two men’s college basketball games topped the three-million ratings mark this season. Duke vs. North Carolina on ESPN averaged 3.08 million while Fox’s Thanksgiving matchup between Michigan State and Arizona hit 5.18 million thanks to the NFL game it followed.

In last season’s epic national championship showdown between Clark’s Iowa and Angel Reese’s LSU averaged 9.9 million viewers, making it the most-watched women’s college basketball game ever.

All of which leads us to the obvious question worth asking. If Iowa can make it to the national title game, can the women’s championship outdraw the men’s championship on viewership?

“I think that is a legit possibility,” Andrew Marchand told Richard Deitsch in a back-and-forth discussion on The Athletic published Tuesday. “Last year, the NCAA men’s championship, pitting Connecticut vs. San Diego State on CBS, had 14.69 million viewers. Two years ago on cable, a great TV matchup featuring North Carolina and Kansas, picked up 17 million on linear television. So if you combined the momentum of a Clark run on broadcast TV to, let’s say, a subpar men’s final on TBS, TNT, etc., then you might have a chance for some TV sports history. The fact that we are even discussing this question is such a win for the women’s game.”

For his part, Deitsch agrees that it remains a possibility.

“I totally agree,” said Deitsch. “I expect ESPN to unveil the most comprehensive coverage they’ve ever had for a women’s tournament. Remember, this year ESPN and the NCAA agreed to a new eight-year, $920 million media rights agreement through 2032 that includes the women’s basketball tournament. The deal ensures the women’s title game will be on ABC in each of the next eight seasons.”

It should be noted that women’s basketball doesn’t need to top the men’s game to prove anything. The ongoing ratings success around women’s basketball, and women’s sports in general, speaks for itself. But it’s also a fascinating possibility, one that wasn’t even thinkable as recently as two years ago.

Indeed, the only way this works is probably if Clark and Iowa return to the finals and the men’s tournament features a lackluster matchup, but the fact that we’re even having this conversation speaks to the value and interest in Caitlin Clark and women’s basketball.

[The Athletic, Sports Media Watch]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to