DETROIT (AP) - It was a tough year for sports fans in Michigan, and nonesuffered more than those rooting for college football's winningestprogram -- which endured a second straight miserable season.
Coach Rich Rodriguez is desperately hoping 2010 is better forthe Wolverines on and off the field.
His is not the only team looking for better times ahead.
Rodriguez and the proud school he represents will begin the newyear waiting to hear from the NCAA after a Detroit Free Pressreport triggered an investigation into the Wolverines' practicehabits.
If the Rodriguez-led program avoids the stigma of majorviolations, there are reasons to believe his third season in thenew-look Big House will be much better than his first two atMichigan.
Quarterback Tate Forcier will be back as a seasoned sophomoreand his playing time will be challenged by sophomore Denard"Shoelace" Robinson and highly touted recruit Devin Gardner fromInkster High School.
After Michigan lost to Ohio State for the sixth straight year,ending the season 5-7, Rodriguez bristled when a reporter askedabout him being defined by Saturdays.
"This is what we do. It's not who we are," he said. "If I'm abad guy because I lost some games and that's what people perceive,I can't help that."
Michigan State's football team also will have to bounce backfrom on and off the field problems.
The Spartans didn't meet relatively high expectations with a 6-6season, then created embarrassment when nine players were chargedwith misdemeanor assault and conspiracy following a dormitory brawlthat left them short-handed for the Jan. 2 Alamo Bowl.
"It's a great challenge, probably the biggest we've had yet,"coach Mark Dantonio said. "With the circumstances we have and theteam we're playing, we'll be very motivated."
The Wolverines and Spartans aren't the only teams pushing formore wins in 2010.
The Lions lead the list, of course. Detroit generated some hopein 2009 by drafting quarterback Matthew Stafford and safety LouisDelmas, but need to follow up with more sound choices in April togive coach Jim Schwartz more talent to work with in his secondseason.
They followed up the NFL's only winless season with just twowins in their first 14 games of '09 and became the league's firstteam with three or fewer wins in a 38-game stretch since the DaytonTriangles in the 1920s.
"The misery continues," kicker Jason Hanson said. "The more youlose, that's what happens.
The Tigers also flopped in 2009, becoming the first team to missout on the playoffs with a three-game lead with four games leftafter losing at Minnesota in the 163rd game. They will have a hardtime avoiding a hangover next season because of cost-cuttingmeasures.
Detroit dealt All-Star outfielder Curtis Granderson and All-Starpitcher Edwin Jackson for outfield prospects Austin Jackson alongwith pitchers Phil Coke, Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth.
"We are making some adjustments and it's a business decision,"Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said at the wintermeetings.
The Pistons barely made the 2009 playoffs after trading ChaunceyBillups early in the season, and then were swept by the ClevelandCavaliers in the first round.
They used the salary cap space created by the Billups deal tosign Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, but they were among themany banged-up players on the reshaped roster that will bechallenged to put the franchise in the postseason again in2010.
The Detroit Shock lost in the Eastern Conference final inSeptember, and the following month, the WNBA announced the teamwould be moving to Tulsa, Okla., for the 2010 season.
The Detroit Red Wings and Michigan State's basketball team canbe most proud of 2009, though neither can claim a championship.
Detroit fell a game short of repeating in a Stanley Cup rematchwith the Pittsburgh Penguins, losing on home ice.
The Spartans also had a runner-up season, enjoying aonce-in-a-lifetime experience of playing in the Final Four -- for anation-best fifth time since 1999 -- at home. They beat Connecticutin front of a packed house at Ford Field before losing to NorthCarolina in the championship game.
After the 2008-09 season, the Red Wings were forced to reshapetheir roster because the salary cap prevented them from re-signingkey players such as Marian Hossa, and no one expects them to make athird straight trip to the Stanley Cup finals. They might not evenmake the playoffs -- ending an 18-year postseason streak -- and itseems unlikely the franchise can earn home-ice advantage for an18th straight year.
"We're going to have to fight just to make the playoffs and it'sgoing to be a grind," senior vice president Jim Devellano said inNovember. "To get home-ice advantage would be a miracle. Amiracle."
Michigan State began this season ranked No. 2, but would have towin the national championship to top being the runner-up in2009.
"It's hard to do better than we did last year," star point guardKalin Lucas said in October. "But I think it's possible that we canget back there and win that last game."
At cross-state rival Michigan, John Beilein raised expectationsfor the Wolverines after guiding them to their first NCAA bid since1998. With most of their top players back, they were ranked No. 15in The Associated Press preseason poll.
But the Wolverines got off to such a lackluster start that theywill likely need to win twice as often as they lose in the Big Tento earn a second straight at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
"I think we've played a very difficult schedule," Beilein said,explaining why the team won just five of its first nine games. "Ithink we were overrated in the beginning.
"We finished seventh in the Big Ten. It wasn't like we were ajuggernaut last year."
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