The book's release during the 1990 season coincided with the investigation of the team for holding illegal off-season practices, which resulted in the team's being declared ineligible for the playoffs and thus not participating in the post season for only the second time since 1980. Permian's absence from the playoffs allowed San Angelo Central into the playoffs for only the 3rd time since 1966. The negative reaction to the playoff situation was exacerbated by the book, and many residents of Odessa received the book with responses ranging from mild indignation to threats of physical violence aimed at the book's author.
In response to the negative reaction in Odessa, a bookstore cancelled a booksigning by the author, and T-shirts possessed by the population bore the words, "Buzz off, Bissinger".
However, over time, the accuracy of the story has held up. The book has been reprinted frequently, including a 2000 reprint with a new afterword by the author detailing the team's accomplishments in the early part of the 1990s followed by the demise of the program in the latter part of the decade.
In 2002, Sports Illustrated named Friday Night Lights the fourth-greatest book ever written about sports.