'The Crossover at Kinnick' was a record-setting success | SCREENSHOT: djruden/YouTube

For a couple of decades now, the phrase, “Women’s Basketball has come a long way’, has been uttered by a lot of experts and analysts. But that was probably no more evident this past weekend when the Iowa Hawkeyes women’s team – led by superstar Caitlin Clark – stepped onto the biggest stage that ladies’ hoops has ever performed on. Playing an exhibition game against DePaul on the university’s football field, the team drew a whopping 55,646 fans to Kinnick Stadium, setting an all-time women’s basketball single-game attendance record.

Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder addresses the Crossover at Kinnick crowd | SCREENSHOT: Big Ten Network/YouTube

‘The Crossover at Kinnick’ was the brainchild of Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder, who had a vision of a huge event to celebrate the women’s game. During a magical run where they fell just short of an NCAA Championship last season, the team captured the imagination of fans all over the country.

As for Caitlin Clark, the do-it-all leader of the Hawkeyes became one of the faces of women’s college basketball, alongside LSU’s April Reese. Their rivalry became somewhat of a ‘Magic vs. Bird’ kind of competition, culminating in Reese’s Tigers triumphing in the title game, 102-85.

Clark didn’t let the Iowa faithful down against DePaul, either registering a triple-double in Iowa’s win over the Blue Demons. Especially for Coach Bluder, who saw her dreams of making it a dynamic day turn into reality.

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Bluder’s idea for an outdoor game came to her when 9,000 fans showed up for a campus celebration for the Hawkeyes when they returned from last year’s NCAA Title Game. But even she didn’t anticipate the number of fans that the game would attract.

“You know, you can have an idea and it could fall flat if nobody shows up,” Bluder said. “But, man, Hawk fans showed up today. Fifty-five thousand, breaking the record, getting to play outside … It was a dream. It really was. It was just fabulous.”

The Crossover at Kinnick’s attendance of 55,646 nearly doubled the previous women’s record of 29,619 set by Connecticut and Oklahoma in the 2002 NCAA Championship Game at San Antonio’s Alamodome.

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