Iowa women's basketball obviously knew this day was coming, but they were hoping to delay the inevitable for one more year. The phenomenal Caitlin Clark is officially declaring for the 2024 WNBA Draft, where she will almost certainly be selected as the No. 1 overall pick by the Indiana Fever. The decision, however, is sparking a financial debate among two well-known reporters.

“Headline: Caitlin Clark chooses a $750,000 paycut,” sports business reporter Darren Rovell posted on X shortly after the big news broke. College sports insider Nicole Auerbach fired back, vehemently challenging the notion that Clark's NIL earnings at Iowa are substantially higher than it will be at the WNBA level (first-year players make a little less than $80,000).

“Her massive brand deals will continue when she’s a pro,” Auerbach said. “I’m beyond tired of people who should know better pretending that female stars going from college to the pros is a pay cut.” Rovell clarified his statement, insisting that he was not referring to endorsements but rather the roughly $800,000 that is “essentially an NIL salary” the reigning AP Player of the Year earns from playing for Iowa.

Auerbach staunchly refuted this claim as well, stating that Clark does not get paid under the university's NIL collective and instead accumulates most of her income from huge branding deals with companies like State Farm.

“Where is this $800,000 number coming from?” the senior writer for The Athletic posted. “She has no deals with the NIL collective. She does not have one lined up for that amount next year, either. ‘Valuations' are not confirmed income. Strange to tweet about this when you don't have the basic facts right.”

Can Caitlin Clark sustain her star power in the WNBA?

Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark (holding ball) reacts with teammates after the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Clark broke the NCAA women's all-time scoring record during the game.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Although the details of this argument are important, the crux of the issue concerns one simple factor. Will the rabid excitement and high national demand that currently surrounds Caitlin Clark in the NCAA carry over into the WNBA?

Nicole Auerbach obviously thinks so, but there is a reasonable possibility that the reaction decreases a bit in the pros. The energy among the college fan base is just different.

The 22-year-old guard's star rose to new heights after leading Iowa women's basketball to their first-ever national championship appearance in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Watching her in action became a spectacle, one that got even bigger in this year's record-breaking campaign.

While the WNBA is growing, as evidenced by the high-profile participation of New York Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu during NBA All-Star Weekend, public enthusiasm is not up to par with the college game. Hence a a dip in overall prominence is definitely feasible, perhaps even unavoidable. Though, Caitlin Clark could be the independent variable in this equation.

Perhaps the Hawkeyes superstar is the reason the sport is enjoying such a boom over the last couple years. She could be the transcendent talent the WNBA needs to catapult itself to the next financial tier.

No matter how much money or commercials Clark accrues next year and moving forward, she should have enough in the bank to live comfortably for a long, long time.