South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley on Caitlin Clark: She is a superstar

Dawn Staley just finished leading South Carolina’s undefeated season and witnessing the end of Caitlin Clark’s record-breaking college career — and she thinks women’s basketball is only getting started.

“I think we are in a moment … from a place where our game has been held back to now it’s at a place where it’s bursting through the seams … I think it’s going to get better and better,” she told CNBC on Tuesday.

The Hall of Fame coach and former player led the Gamecocks to their third national championship and the first perfect season in their history as they defeated Clark and Iowa earlier this month. The matchup, broadcast on ESPN, was the most-watched basketball game at any level since 2019, according to Nielsen.

On Tuesday, Staley and the Gamecocks paid another visit to a national stage — this time, the New York Stock Exchange to ring the opening bell to celebrate their national championship win. The appearance is just another example of how women’s sports reached new heights this year as basketball drew record-breaking audiences, in no small part due to Clark’s pursuit of the college basketball scoring record and South Carolina’s bid for an undefeated season.

Clark was chosen first in the Women’s National Basketball Association draft Monday night, and her arrival to the Indiana Fever has already raised ticket prices across the U.S.

Staley pointed to the Gamecocks as an example of why schools should invest in women’s sports.

“I hope every school or university treats women’s sports like South Carolina,” she said. “They invest in my salary, they invest in student athletes … and we’re here.”

Staley, who is the second-highest-paid coach in women’s college basketball, has a salary of $3.1 million per season, and earned a reported $680,000 more in bonuses following South Carolina’s championship.

“I think now is the time [schools] are seeing there is a return on your investment when you pour into our game,” she said.

Staley also reflected on Clark’s effect on women’s basketball, not only through drawing new audiences to the sport, but also by appearing on platforms such as “Saturday Night Live.”

“Caitlin Clark is a superstar. I credit her for raising the level and we need to thank her for that,” Staley said.

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