Michael Mulvihill on women's college basketball Credit: The Colin Cowherd Podcast

Women’s college basketball and its broadcast partners are simultaneously celebrating incredible viewership around phenom scorer Caitlin Clark and her Iowa Hawkeyes while trying to forecast where the sport will go when she leaves for the WNBA Draft in May.

Speaking on The Colin Cowherd Podcast this week, Fox president of insights and analytics Michael Mulvihill expressed his confidence that the popularity of the sport has taken a “permanent step forward” that will sustain after Clark.

“Once Caitlin moves onto the WNBA, I’m not sure that we’ll see viewership at the collegiate level that’s exactly what we’re seeing this year, but I don’t think it’s a reset back to where we were five years ago either,” Mulvihill told Cowherd. “I think a permanent step forward has happened, and we’re still going to see some pretty strong interest in the future.”

Mulvihill explained that the reason he has confidence the sport will sustain its popularity is that Clark is merely the peak of a trend that has been going on for a while.

“She’s at the forefront of an evolution in the skill level that we see in women’s basketball,” Mulvihill said. “Whether that’s Paige Bueckers … or JuJu Watkins who has several years to go at Southern Cal and obviously will be part of the Big Ten next year, I think (Clark) is just at the leading edge of a new generation of players that are elevating the game.”

Fox has Big East rights for Bueckers and UConn as well as the Big Ten, where Watkins will play her sophomore season.

Mulvihill previously announced that viewership for women’s basketball broadcasts was outpacing men’s basketball broadcasts for the first time this season. Reports earlier this week indicated Fox explored an NIL deal with Clark to convince her to remain in college.

Networks are clearly desperate to wring every last drop of attention out of the Clark phenomenon. But Mulvihill believes the past two Iowa seasons are not just a flash in the pan when it comes to popularity overall for women’s hoops.

[The Colin Cowherd Podcast on YouTube]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.