Iowa women’s basketball star Caitlin Clark undecided on future, could return for fifth season

The two-time Big Ten Player of the Year has not ruled out taking advantage of her extra year of eligibility in 2024-25.


Matt Sindt

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark leaves the court after a women’s basketball game between No. 7 Iowa and No. 5 Maryland at Target Center in Minneapolis on Saturday, March 4, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 89-84. Clark scored 22 points and had 9 assists.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

Hawkeye fans could have five years of Caitlin Clark.

The Iowa women’s basketball junior, who joined the Hawkeyes in the 2020-21 season, is part of the final class that was given an extra year of eligibility because of COVID-19.

As of now, the junior hasn’t ruled out two more seasons as a Hawkeye.

“There are definitely pros and cons to both,” Clark said. “I can probably leave and go to the WNBA draft [in 2024] or I can come back for a fifth year. So, to be honest, I have no idea what I’m going to do, and I haven’t thought much about it. I always kept saying, like, ‘I’ll just worry about that later,’ but I can’t believe I’m going to be a senior next year. So, that’s pretty crazy.”

Clark said she’ll likely make her decision ahead of her senior season in 2023-24. She said on “The Dan Patrick Show” on Feb. 27 that she would seriously consider staying in Iowa because of her love for her teammates and coaches.

“I love college basketball,” Clark said on the talk show. “I don’t know. It would be hard to leave. I think what we’ve been able to build has been super special, too. But more than anything, I love this program, I love getting to play for coach [Lisa] Bluder, I love getting to play with my best friends.”

If the two-time Big Ten Player of the Year does return for a fifth season, she has the chance to break almost every career record in the Iowa women’s basketball and Big Ten record books.

She already holds the Big Ten career record with nine triple-doubles and the season record with five.

Clark, who has 2,525 career points as of March 5, will likely break former Hawkeye Megan Gustafson’s all-time Iowa points record (2,804) in her senior season in 2023-24. If she returns in 2024-25, that record could be nearly untouchable.

She could even have a shot at the Big Ten and NCAA scoring records in her fourth year next season — in a fifth season, she could smash them.

Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell, who played from 2015-18, holds the Big Ten scoring record with 3,402 points. Kelsey Plum, who played for Washington from 2013-17 and currently plays for the reigning WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces, holds the NCAA scoring record with 3,527 points.

Clark also has 734 career assists as of March 5 — less than 200 away from the Big Ten record of 901, which was set by Ohio State’s Samantha Prahalis from 2009-12. The NCAA record of 1,307 was set by Penn State’s Suzie McConnell from 1984-88 before the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten.

But Bluder said discussions haven’t started about Clark staying for a fifth year. Right now, they’re focused on tournament season.

“We haven’t talked about that; fifth year is just too far down the line,” Bluder said. “We’re focusing on now and then, obviously, next year.”

Other than breaking records, Clark also has her name, image, and likeness deals to think about.

Clark is the only collegiate athlete to have an NIL deal with Hy-Vee — a popular Midwest grocery store chain. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the only other athlete with a Hy-Vee deal.

“Just me,” Clark said of anyone in the WNBA having a Hy-Vee deal. “I guess I’m lucky enough for that.”

She’s also one of five college athletes to have an NIL deal with Nike and holds sponsorships with H+R Block, the minor league Iowa Cubs, and Topps Trading Cards, according to On3.

Clark can also freely make money off of her merchandise while a college athlete and hosts her own website to sell products.

Clark would take a hit to her merchandise sales in the WNBA, which regulates jersey and official merch sales and gives shares to players. Under the WNBA’s 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement, players and the league get a 50-50 split of incremental revenue — which is money made after the WNBA hits its target revenue for the season.

While she didn’t reveal how much money she’s making from her NIL ventures, it’s more than the projected average $72,141 WNBA rookie salary for picks 1-4.

Those deals won’t necessarily go away once Clark leaves Iowa and heads to the WNBA. But if Clark is drafted to a team outside of the Midwest, she is bargaining the chance of Hy-Vee not renewing its deal with her, along with other regional deals.

“I know the salaries are starting to change quite a bit in the WNBA, but I think something that’s lost too is that people in the WNBA — they’re still getting the same endorsement deals that you would in college,” Clark said. “They’re still being sponsored by Nike, being sponsored by Under Armour. It’s kind of the same as in college, but you’re also a professional athlete at the same time. I don’t think that really would be too much of a consideration for me when I’m making that decision.”