NCAA women’s championship game crushed men’s in TV ratings by millions

The NCAA women’s national championship game dominated the men’s title game in TV ratings by a landslide.

Monday’s men’s game on TNT and TBS, in which UConn defeated Purdue to win its second straight title, drew an average of 14.8 million viewers, according to The Athletic — a tick up from the Huskies’ win over San Diego State last season, which drew 14.69 million.

For Sunday’s women’s game on ABC and ESPN, South Carolina’s win over Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes drew 18.7 million viewers, more than any basketball game (men’s or women’s and college or professional) since 2019, according to ESPN, and the most viewership ever for a women’s college basketball game.

The broadcast peaked at a stunning 24 million viewers.

UConn celebrates their win against Purdue in the NCAA college Final Four championship basketball game, Monday, April 8, 2024, in Glendale, Ariz. AP
Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates after beating the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on April 7, 2024 in Cleveland, Ohio. Getty Images

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

Clark and the Hawkeyes set viewership records for women’s college basketball in three straight games across seven days during March Madness, drawing 12.3 million viewers for their rematch against LSU in the Elite Eight and 14.2 million viewers for its Final Four win over UConn.

The dominance of the women’s tournament was due in part to a number of stars from various teams, with Clark — the NCAA’s all-time Division I leading scorer — proving to be the biggest draw.

The “Caitlin Clark effect” saw record numbers in attendance and ticket prices across the 2024 NCAA women’s tournament.

LSU’s Angel Reese, UConn’s Paige Bueckers, South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso and USC’s star freshman JuJu Watkins all played a role in growing the women’s game.

Clark, Reese and Bueckers have become some of the top faces of the NIL era, with millions of followers on social media.

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes defended by Raven Johnson of the South Carolina Gamecocks during the 2024 NCAA Women’s National Championship at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on April 7, 2024 in Cleveland, Ohio. Getty Images

Lakers star LeBron James also credited those “icons” for the rise of women’s college basketball.

“I don’t think there’s much difference between the men’s and women’s game when it comes to college basketball,” James said last week. “I think the popularity comes in with the icons that they have in the women’s game.

“You look at Angel Reese, you look at JuJu [Watkins], you look at Caitlin Clark, you look at Paige [Bueckers]. You look at the young girl that’s at Iowa State, the freshman there [Audi Crooks]. You look at [Cameron] Brink at Stanford. And that’s just to name a few. And the freshman that’s at Notre Dame [Hannah Hidalgo].”

Clark, Reese and Cardoso declared for the 2024 WNBA Draft, while Bueckers will return to UConn for her final year of eligibility.

Clark is the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft, which is owned by the Indiana Fever. The 2024 WNBA Draft will take place at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Monday.


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