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Goodell's Right-Hand Man Now ASU's New AD

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Ray Anderson, right, pictured with former NFL players association president Gene Upshaw, was a top NFL executive before leaving to become Arizona State's athletic director. Photo by Brenda J. Turner/Getty Images.
Ray Anderson, right, pictured with former NFL players association president Gene Upshaw, was a top NFL executive before leaving to become Arizona State's athletic director. Photo by Brenda J. Turner/Getty Images.

Arizona State will replace departed athletic director Steve Patterson with Roger Goodell's right-hand man, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

NFL executive vice president of operations Ray Anderson, a bit of an enforcer for the league office, enforced new safety rules and handed out fines and discipline.

Anderson announced that he'd step down just before Christmas, an under-the-radar move with major implications in the NFL. He's emerged in charge of Sun Devils athletics in place of Patterson, who left for Texas.

"I love the professional arena, but once they get to us, they are kind of down a different path,'' Anderson said during his introductory news conference. "The opportunity to have a different group of student-athletes at a point in life where they're not necessarily going down the professional path, they're just trying to find their path in what they're going to do, to have an impact and an influence on that really, really drove this decision and made this so special.''

He'll work for the NFL through the Super Bowl and resume his duties at Arizona State on Feb. 5, national signing day. It's a coup for ASU as the move represents a significant step down for Anderson, who has a law degree and is considered a sharp-minded executive with decades of experience.

"Ray's wide-ranging experience in football has played an important role in our football operations," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said when Anderson announced he was leaving the league. "Ray has been a strong contributor, always focusing on our key priorities. His engaging personality helped smooth the edges of many a difficult issue. We appreciate Ray's contributions and know he will be successful in his next venture."

Considering Todd Graham's itchy feet — he's been head coach at four schools since 2006 — it wouldn't be a surprise if Anderson has to hire a football coach in the next couple of years, though the Sun Devils won the Pac-12 South title in 2013 and Graham's job isn't in danger. If the position comes open, though, Anderson will be plenty prepared.

Anderson also is tasked with overseeing renovations to Sun Devil Stadium and developing a major fundraising project, the AP reported.