STARKVILLE, Miss. - Former Mississippi State standout Per Nilsson has been named MSU's new head men's tennis coach, as announced by director of athletics Larry Templeton Wednesday. The hiring is pending the approval of the Board of Trustees, Institutions of Higher Learning.
Nilsson comes to MSU from Pepperdine University, where he has served as assistant coach for the past five years. During that period, he has been highly instrumental in the resurgence of the Waves' tennis program on the national level. PU was 119-38 in his five seasons on staff while extending the school's streak of West Coast Conference titles to 17 straight.
Easily highlighting his resume while in Malibu was the 2006 campaign, when Pepperdine claimed its first-ever national championship. Nilsson was very involved in Pepperdine's recruiting efforts leading up to that season, which saw the Waves post a 36-2 record and hand Georgia its only loss of the season in the NCAA title match at Stanford, Calif.
Leading up to that crowning season, Pepperdine improved from 27th in the country in 2004 to No. 8 nationally in '05, a year in which Nilsson was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's West Region Assistant Coach of the Year. The Waves advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals that campaign, ending at 24-3.
Prior to heading to Malibu, Nilsson spent nearly seven years in the Atlanta, Ga., area as a tennis professional. He spent two years at Capital City Country Club as Head Tennis Professional. He then had two-year stints in the role of Director of Tennis at both Apalachee Farms and St. Marlo Country Club.
Upon the completion of his career at State, he was a student assistant for MSU's men's program in 1994-95.
Certainly no stranger to the Bulldog tennis program, Nilsson lettered four seasons (1991-94) for Mississippi State as a major player in the start of MSU's decade of tennis glory in the 1990s under former head coach Andy Jackson.
During Nilsson's four seasons, the Bulldogs reached the NCAA round of 16 four times, concluding with a program-best national semifinal appearance during his senior season of 1994. After a No. 20 national finish in '91, State posted consecutive top 10 rankings in each of his last three seasons, coming in at 9th, 7th and 3rd in the country, respectively. He was also part of the Bulldogs' 1993 squad that claimed the Southeastern Conference crown.
Nilsson ranks seventh all-time in the Bulldog record books for overall career victories with 164. He also ranks seventh at State in career wins in dual matches with 102. He attained his highest individual national ranking during his senior season, as team co-captain, coming in at 45th in the country in singles.
"We are very proud to be able to attract a coach with Per's experience on the national level to our program," Templeton said. "We are even more proud that he is a product of our tradition-rich tennis program who knows what it takes to be successful on the national and conference levels."
A native of Lund, Sweden, Nilsson was a high school exchange student at Jackson (Miss.) Academy as a prepster and was the 1990 Mississippi Academy singles champion. He is married to the former Beth Vennerstrom of St. Augustine, Fla.
Nilsson succeeds former Bulldog and teammate Sylvain Guichard, who resigned this past summer to pursue other family endeavors. Guichard, the 2005 SEC Co-Coach of the Year, had led State to four NCAA appearances in six seasons at the helm.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State head football coach Sylvester Croom sent his team through a two-hour, 30-minute practice in shorts and head gear only Wednesday, the first of five NCAA-required practices without pads to open the 2007 pre-season camp.
Without the advantage of being able to hit, the MSU head coach was relegated to analyzing his team's conditioning and attitude.
"I thought we had a decent first day," Croom said. "I liked the attitude of the guys and their attention to detail. It was evident that we worked hard in the off-season. We practiced at a high tempo and we ran well today.
"But it was just shorts today, so I don't want to talk about individuals," Croom continued. "I'll wait until we start to hit somebody before doing that. But I like the intangibles about this team. I like their work ethic. Hopefully, it's a sign we won't have to spend so much time dwelling on the small things."
Croom did allude to some personnel shifts that should make his fourth team his best.
"We're going to put the best 11 guys on the field on offense, defense and special teams," Croom said, "and that may require some guys moving around to allow that to happen. But that's part of that attitude, a willingness to move to another position to help the team as a whole."
Croom praised the upperclassmen on the team for their leadership.
"They have taken real accountability for this football team," he said. "This is their football team."