Aulbach discusses NIL deal with WWE

Correspondent file photo / Robert Hayes. YSU’s Mady Aulbach, right, forces IUPUI’s Rachel McLimore, left, into a traveling call during a game last season.

YOUNGSTOWN — At first, Mady Aulbach thought it was a joke.

Scrolling through Instagram back in June, Aulbach came across a personal message request from WWE Recruit, the social media account for WWE’s department of Talent ID and Development. The famed wrestling organization wanted to talk to Aulbach about a potential Name/Image/Likeness (NIL) deal.

Never much of a fan of WWE before, Aulbach wasn’t sure what to make of it.

“I was like, ‘Is this a joke?’ I didn’t know what it was,” YSU’s guard explained. “So I messaged them back on Instagram, we set up a (Microsoft) Teams call, and I talked to one of their heads of talent. When I talked to him on the phone call, we just kind of discussed what the NIL opportunity entails.”

As the talks progressed, Aulbach had a realization.

“Going further into it, (the head of talent) said, ‘I’m glad you sound so excited about it, because obviously not everyone would be into wrestling after college,’ and I was kind of taken aback because I thought we were discussing my major and my degree that I have — I graduated with a degree in marketing. So I thought he was speaking on working with them after college on the business said, but obviously I was not correct.”

Indeed, what Aulbach has signed on for actually falls on the wrestling side through WWE’s Next In Line program, which seeks to recruit and develop potential talent from the ranks of collegiate athletics.

Aulbach is part of the third class of athletes to join the program. Among those in the 15-person group is Georgia softball star Jaiden Fields, sister of former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.

While in the program, Aulbach and her cohorts will have access to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla., as well as resources including brand building and media training, communications and live event promotion and more.

After completing the program, some of the athletes may be offered a WWE contract.

Should that be Aulbach’s path, she’ll go through the tryouts and then head down to Orlando after the conclusion of her college basketball career in 2024, as she still has one year of eligibility remaining.

As she continues to play, WWE will “advertise” Aulbach through the NIL deal to help her generate a following within the wrestling community. Then, if she eventually joins WWE, she can hit the ground running with a fan base.

She’s also discussed visiting the training center at some point, and she was able to take in a WWE event in Pittsburgh.

While that is the ultimate goal of the program, Aulbach also said she wants to use the opportunity to network with other athletes.

“I think just using this opportunity as something to network myself and meet these other athletes who I can potentially make connections with, and then you always want one (NIL) deal to lead to another,” Aulbach said. “So hopefully getting this deal can get me some more exposure out there and lead me to other things as well.”

Then, too, there’s the chance to stay physically active while also working on new skills. While staying in competitive shape is nothing new to Aulbach, there’s more to WWE than just being physically fit.

Beyond staying in shape, Aulbach could look to develop skills such as acting and developing a “persona” of sorts.

“I’ve definitely thought about … the mental part of me actually being able to act and rehearse and do these different things that I’m not used to,” Aulbach said. “And then, of course, I’ve thought about the outfits and what I would get to call myself.”

That potential name?

“The Pink Dream” for Aulbach’s favorite color, or “Mad Dog” because that’s what friends and teammates call her.

She added, “Things like that are just fun to think about. I never thought this would be an opportunity coming to Youngstown to play basketball that I would be thinking about being in the WWE one day. So it’s just exciting to even think about that kind of stuff.”

In the meantime, YSU continues its 2022-23 campaign today at Cleveland State.



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