Serena Williams is Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year — the first female athlete honored on her own by the magazine in more than 30 years.

Williams came within two matches of tennis' first calendar-year Grand Slam since 1988, a bid that ended with a semifinal loss at the U.S. Open.

In all, the 34-year-old American went 53-3 during 2015 with five titles, including at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon. Williams was No. 1 in the WTA rankings all season.

"She was the most deserving person for the award. She had an amazing year. The way she won her events; the fact that she's done this for so many years at such a high level," said Paul Fichtenbaum, editor of the Sports Illustrated Group. "She was a terrific candidate in a year of terrific candidates."

Monday's announcement marks a switch to the formal name of the SI award; past recipients were touted as Sportsman or Sportswoman of the Year.

Runner Mary Decker in 1983 was the last female athlete to earn the magazine's award by herself.

The U.S. women's national soccer team was picked by SI in 1999; speedskater Bonnie Blair in 1994 and gymnast Mary Lou Retton in 1984 were co-honorees with male Olympians.

college football

Nielson named S. Dakota coach

Bob Nielson of Western Illinois, the reigning coach of the year in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, was named the new head coach at South Dakota.

The former Minnesota Duluth coach will succeed Joe Glenn, who retired after four seasons at South Dakota.

The 56-year-old Neilson has compiled a 186-80-1 record in 23 seasons as a head coach. He's been at Western Illinois the past three seasons. Before that he coached Ripon College, Wartburg College, Wisconsin-Eau Claire and UMD. He led Duluth to NCAA Division II national championships in 2008 and 2010, and he was voted Division II coach of the year following both seasons.

Nielson this season led Western Illinois to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

Status of Nkemdiche up in the air

Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze has not made a decision regarding Robert Nkemdiche's status for the Sugar Bowl after the defensive lineman was charged with possession of marijuana following a 15-foot fall at an Atlanta hotel.

The coach said he needs to gather more facts and talk more with Nkemdiche before making a decision about any punishment.

... Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will not coach the Georgia offense in the Taxslayer Bowl on Jan. 2. No further details were released.

prep football

Coach sentenced to probation

A former assistant high school football coach was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to assault for an attack on a game referee by two of his players.

Mack Breed, a former assistant football coach at John Jay High School in San Antonio, pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge and was sentenced to 18 months of probation. He also was fined $1,500 and ordered to serve 120 hours of community service and pay restitution to referee Robert Watts.

Breed also must forfeit his Texas teaching certificate permanently and attend anger management sessions, said Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arredondo.

The two players hit the referee during a Sept. 4 game at Marble Falls. They said they did so at Breed's direction. He denied the allegation but resigned from the Jay coaching staff Sept. 23.