Iowa vs. South Carolina national championship sets women’s NCAA record for TV viewership

The longer Caitlin Clark and Iowa went, the more people were interested.

For the third time in seven days, Clark and the Hawkeyes shattered the TV viewership record for women’s college basketball, this time with their NCAA championship final loss Sunday to undefeated South Carolina on ABC drawing 18.7 million viewers, according to ESPN.

The broadcast peaked at a whopping 24 million viewers, the network said.

It marks the largest audience for any basketball game (men’s or women’s, college or professional) since 2019.

“18.7 MILLION,” Clark wrote on X along with a fire emoji.

Caitlin Clark sits on the bench during Iowa's loss to South Carolina on Sunday.
Caitlin Clark sits on the bench during Iowa’s loss to South Carolina on Sunday. AP

Iowa’s controversial Final Four win over UConn on Friday had set the previous record for most-watched women’s college basketball game at 14.2 million viewers.

And that game broke the record set last Monday by Iowa’s win over LSU in the Elite Eight, which drew 12.3 million viewers, far surpassing the average of 9.9 million from LSU’s national title win over Iowa last year.

According to The Athletic, Sunday’s viewership of 18.7 million is more than all but four college football games from the 2023 season; more than every World Series game since the Nationals’ Game 7 win over the Astros in 2019; more than every NBA Finals game since the Warriors’ Game 5 win over the Cavaliers in 2017; more than every Daytona 500 since 2008 and more than every final round of the Masters since 2001, when Tiger Woods captured his second green jacket.

Clark, considered by some to be the GOAT of women’s college hoops, was a consistent draw for ESPN as she tried to fill the conspicuous championship void on her résumé after the Hawkeyes’ loss to the Tigers a year ago.

Sunday’s game started auspiciously for Clark and her team as her 18 first-quarter points set a record for most points in a quarter in a championship game, and Iowa led by seven at the end of the quarter.

South Carolina's Kamilla Cardoso cuts down the net after their national championship win over Iowa on Sunday.
South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso cuts down the net after their national championship win over Iowa on Sunday. AP

But Clark was limited to 12 points over the final three quarters as South Carolina turned up the heat defensively en route to completing an undefeated 38-0 season.

It was Clark and Iowa who took out a then-undefeated Gamecocks squad in last year’s Final Four, but Dawn Staley and Co. got revenge to win their second national championship in three years.

Now Clark heads to next Monday’s WNBA draft, where she likely will be selected No. 1 overall by the Indiana Fever.


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