With Caitlin Clark chasing more history, Lynette Woodard’s scoring record comes into focus

With Caitlin Clark chasing more history, Lynette Woodard's scoring record comes into focus

In a home game on Jan. 6, 1981, Lynette Woodard caught a pass at the top of the key. The Kansas star took one dribble and pulled up for a jump shot that slid through the net, and into history — at least it should have.

“Oh my goodness,” said Elizabeth Galloway-Mcquitter, President of Legends of the Ball. “Lynette was an all-around player. She could do everything. She could play all positions.”

Woodard’s jumper made her the all-time leading scorer in women’s college basketball history, but it’s a record that has been left in the shadows. Woodard’s feat came before the NCAA sanctioned women’s basketball, in the AIAW era (Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women).

That’s why when Caitlin Clark’s patented long-distance 3-pointer went down on Feb. 15, it was Kelsey Plum’s record she broke, not Woodard’s. Clark surpassed Plum’s 3,527 points, and is now nearing Pete Maravich’s mark of 3,667 points, which is the record for men’s and women’s basketball.

But in the middle is Woodard’s 3,649 points. Clark will likely pass Woodard’s total on Wednesday against Minnesota, or on Sunday against Ohio State. She averages 32.1 points per game, and needs 33 to pass Woodard.

Catching Plum was a feat, but it wasn’t the record. Not really. And letting Woodard get lost in history is a disservice to her, the pioneers of women’s basketball, and Clark herself.

“When you don’t know the history-makers, it cheats them and the current players,” Galloway-Mcquitter said. “One of the greats of our game is constantly kept in the shadows. And I imagine Caitlin [Clark] would want to know whose record she is really chasing.”

Lynette Woodard was a part of the United States women's basketball team that won gold in 1984. (Tony Duffy/Allsport/Getty Images)

Lynette Woodard was a part of the United States women’s basketball team that won gold in 1984. (Tony Duffy/Allsport/Getty Images)

When she passes Woodard, Clark will officially be the record holder, but that number won’t be celebrated by the NCAA.

That’s because prior to 1982, women’s basketball operated separately from the NCAA, and to this day, the NCAA does not acknowledge the players from the AIAW era, nor their stats.

“We were playing against the best of our era,” Galloway-Mcquitter said. “[Those records are] legitimate. They warrant acknowledgement and recognition.”

Galloway-Mcquitter, and Legends of the Ball, want to make sure Woodard is celebrated.

The organization was created by basketball players from Woodard’s era, like Galloway-Mcquitter, who played at UNLV, to educate the public about women’s basketball history, particularly Title IX, the AIAW and the WBL (Women’s Professional Basketball League).

Woodard played four years at Kansas, from 1978-1981, averaging 26 points per game. Her list of accolades is extensive.

Woodard was a four-time All-American and the first woman at Kansas to have her jersey retired. She went on to win a gold medal with the United States in 1984, and a year later, became the first woman to compete with the Harlem Globetrotters.

In 2004, Woodard was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 2005, she was selected for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Despite her lengthy list of accomplishments, and the role she served as a pioneer following Title IX, Woodard still hasn’t been granted the record she earned.

“I want the NCAA governing body to know that they should respect the AIAW players,” Woodard said on Sunday during an ESPN broadcasted game between Kansas and Kansas State. “This is the era of diversity, equity and inclusion. They should include us. We deserve it.”

Records lose meaning when only part of the picture is recognized, and Clark wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for players like Woodard, Galloway-Mcquitter said. The attendance records, sponsorships and doting fans that follow Clark’s every move are all made possible by the women who played before her.

“You can’t truly gauge how far the game has come until you know those seminal moments,” Galloway-Mcquitter said. “The names and faces, the events that helped get us where we are. That’s why history matters. We need to think about the ones who first opened the doors and kept them open.”

Galloway-Mcquitter knows Clark is about to break Woodard’s record, and she’s thrilled for the Iowa guard.

“Records are meant to be broken,” she said. “But Lynette should have been given the opportunity to pass that baton to Caitlin. It’s her baton to pass.”