Clark’s record run doesn’t tell full story

2/29/2024, 6 p.m.
By now, you know Iowa sharpshooter Caitlin Clark has broken the all-time NCAA women’s scoring record, or at least you’ve ...

By now, you know Iowa sharpshooter Caitlin Clark has broken the all-time NCAA women’s scoring record, or at least you’ve heard her name.

To be sure, Clark, a senior guard, is a transcendent talent whose specialty is the 3-pointer. On Feb. 15, she broke the all-time scoring mark held by former University of Washington player Kelsey Plum, 29, who has won back-to-back WNBA championships with the Las Vegas Aces. Plum finished her college career (2013-2017) with 3,527 points.

Both are fine athletes who continue to excel in their sport. But their story isn’t the only one that needs to be told.

As Clark, 22, chased the record, few media reports – print or electronic – included two other important pieces – Pearl Moore and Lynette Woodard.

For 45 years, Moore has held the over- all women’s scoring mark of 4,061 points (1975-79). Moore played at tiny Francis Marion University in her hometown of Florence, S.C.

Former Kansas star Lynette Woodard holds the major college women’s scoring record of 3,649 points (1978-81).

So why aren’t the two African-American basketball phenoms recognized for their accomplishments? In short, it’s complicated, and probably has nothing to do with race, although Clark and Plum are white.

Rather, shortsightedness by the NCAA is the culprit.

Moore and Woodard, both of whom are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, played when women’s college basketball was governed by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW).

The organization ran the sport from 1971 to 1983, before the NCAA took over. That means statistics from non-NCAA associations “are not currently included in NCAA record books, regardless of gender,” a NCAA spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal.

Unfair, you say? How can all that hard work and sweat go unrecognized by the NCAA?

Well, something similar happened in Major League Baseball, which only decided to include Negro League stats in 2020. The decision covers seven Negro League teams that operated between 1920 and 1948 – or roughly 3,400 players.

While MLB finally rectified its mess, the NCAA still is doing business as usual, despite a chorus of voices pushing for change.

Clearly, it’s time. The NCAA should just admit it made a mistake with players such as Moore and Woodard and move to embrace their numbers. And it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to throw in an apology to those who have been left out of the record books all these years.

Throughout Clark’s record run, Moore and Woodard have been gracious and excited about her breaking the record. But you can’t help but feel there’s a little bit of sadness attached to it.

“I’m not the only one that it affects,” Moore, 66, told the Washington Post. "Players like Lynette Woodard and Carol Blazejowski would’ve had bigger totals as well because of how we played.”

“Those records should have been merged a long time ago,” Woodard, 64, also told the Washington Post. “We’re so quick to erase anything we don’t like or think we don’t like. It’s just not fair. There’s a lot of history there and it just should not be dismissed.”

It’s hard to disagree with that.