WWE has announced the first participants in its NIL (name, image, and likeness) program.
The sports entertainment giant has selected 15 college athletes to take part in the inaugural version of the Next in Line program as they call it, with the class encompassing participants in sports like track and field, basketball, amateur wrestling, and football. Among those taking part are A.J. Ferrari, the wrestler from Oklahoma State, as well as Haley and Hanna Cavinder, basketball players from Fresno State. The full list of participating athletes can be seen below.
WWE first announced “Next in Line” on Dec. 2. It builds on the NIL policy established by the NCAA in July 2021 that allows college athletes to monetize their name, image, and likeness. The 15 new participants join previously announced WWE NIL deal holder Gable Steveson, the heavyweight wrestler who won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Under the Next in Line program, WWE will look to recruit and develop future stars by collaborating with college athletes and allow them access to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla. In addition, recruits will be able to utilize WWE resources such as brand building, media training, communications, live event promotion, creative writing, and community relations. Upon completion of the NIL program, select athletes may earn an opportunity to be offered a WWE contract.
The new NIL rules allow WWE to work with college athletes more than ever, though such athletes are no stranger to the WWE roster. Current WWE champions Roman Reigns and Big E were both college football players prior to their wrestling careers, while many other current WWE stars took part in other sports before transitioning to the world of professional wrestling.