When the Academy Award nominations are announced next week, the name most likely to be conspicuously absent is Billy Bob Thornton’s, whose portrayal of Gary Gaines – the coach of a high school football team in the fact-based drama Friday Night Lights – was equal to any of those that will be nominated.

Despite great reviews and a good opening weekend, Friday Night Lights was only moderately successful, probably because it was perceived as just another sports movie.

That misconception should be rectified by the release of the DVD (4 stars, Universal, $29.98), which should convince a new audience that this is one of last year’s best films of any description. It’s a faithful adaptation of former journalist Buzz Bissinger’s bestseller about a year spent in football-obsessed Odessa, Texas, as the coach and players devote themselves to winning a state championship.

Director Peter Berg (who also is Bissinger’s cousin) divides his time between the on-field action, which is filmed with hand-held cameras for bone-crushing realism, and the ongoing drama that takes place away from the gridiron, focusing on Gaines as he tries to balance winning with concern for his players.

That concern is most noticeably directed at star running back Boobie Miles (Derek Luke), who suffers an injury that threatens to ruin the season; talented but troubled quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black) and running back Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund), whose inability to hold on to the ball results in physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father, a former team star, played with convincing intensity by country singer Tim McGraw.

Lights could still pick up an Oscar nod or two in technical categories and should qualify for editing and sound design, the latter of which can be fully appreciated in the 5.1 Surround mix on the DVD. Extras include a commentary by Bissinger and Berg that covers a lot of the same territory they explored in a Detroit Free Press interview last fall; outtakes that consist primarily of extended scenes; and a 30-minute visit with many of the people portrayed in the film, including the ill-fated Miles.

Grade: A