Fans of the Minnesota Gophers football program suffered through a 1-11 season last fall, which made the Comcast-Big Ten Network (BTN) dispute a little easier to stomach. Better to rake the lawn and caulk the storm windows than endure TV coverage of a struggling football team.

The 2008 season will be a whole new deal, though, after Comcast and BTN finally reached an agreement this week. Now Comcast customers in the Twin Cities will be able to subscribe to the channel under the expanded basic service plan.

Comcast seemed to take most of the criticism from consumers during last year's dispute. It's good sport to bash cable companies, and it's natural to blame the messenger in a case like this. But there are some signs that the Big Ten might have been a little too greedy at the negotiating table.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the deal was completed after BTN cut its per-month, per-subscriber asking price from $1.10 to around 70 cents. If that's accurate, you can understand why Comcast wasn't willing to deal at the higher rate.

It's no secret that the Big Ten will work to squeeze every dollar out of its new network. To compete with satellite TV and other entertainment options, Comcast has to keep programming costs in check, which in turn determines how much it charges subscribers.

It's difficult to put a figure on the PR damage done to BTN and Comcast, but the two companies must have known that they needed to have a deal in place by the time the 2008 football season begins. Now that it's done, Gopher fans can go back to worrying about wins and losses.

Too tired to drive safely?

Charges were filed last week against the 69-year-old driver of a charter bus that overturned on I-94 this spring, killing one of the young band students. According to court documents, Loren Ernst, a former truck driver from Moorhead, allegedly had only gotten three hours of sleep in the 24 hours before he started the overnight trek back from Chicago that ended in tragedy in the early morning darkness on April 5 near Albertville.

Although the company maintains that Ernst got a full night's sleep, investigators have focused on his alertness level. They claim he knew he was in trouble at a Wisconsin rest stop, worrying that his sleepiness had led to the bus drifting. Less than two hours later, the bus crashed into a ditch. Authorities allege that his fatigue led him to operate the bus in a grossly negligent manner.

The tragedy is a reminder of the dangers of driving when the body is hardwired to sleep. Avoid overnight travel. Get off the road any time you feel fatigued. The decision may be a lifesaver. It could also spare you the lifetime of anguish that is Ernst's fate after this terrible accident.

Are T-shirts available?

A Page 1 story in Friday's Star Tribune says the Twin Cities is one of the 10 worst areas in the country for mortgage fraud. That's no laughing matter. But we had to smile at the name of the multiagency effort now underway to combat the problem: Operation Malicious Mortgage.