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Misericordia Faculty and Alumni Recently Published Research Appearing in Marquette Sports Law Review

Misericordia Faculty and Alumni Recently Published Research Appearing in

Marquette Sports Law Review

Joshua D. Winneker, J.D., associate professor of business at Misericordia University, and recent alumni Ian Silfies, co-author and Danielle Clifford, research assistant, were recently published in Marquette Sports Law Review for their research paper, “The Ethics of Sign Stealing in College Football.”

The research paper discusses whether a coach’s actions of stealing the opposing team’s signs during a game were ethical. The paper goes on to analyze whether non-electronic forms of deciphering an opponent's signs or signals during a college football game to gain a competitive advantage, which technically is not a violation of any rules, are nevertheless still an ethical practice. According to the rules, stealing signs or signals is only illegal by means of electronic equipment.

As the research paper explained “sign stealing in college football is ethical and merely another aspect of preparing for and playing the game. Being completely prepared for a game involves practice, reviewing film and creating a comprehensive game plan.” The research continued to explain how sign stealing gives a team a better advantage due to their ability to be more prepared, “In addition to the pre-game planning, coaches also have to adapt to circumstances that occur during a game. If a coach or coaching staff is simply better prepared or more reactive than their opponents, this does not make their actions unethical. On the contrary, it means they worked harder for a competitive edge, which is exactly what sign stealing provides. Moreover, this competitive edge, as noted above, is considered acceptable by the majority of college football coaches’ expressed opinions and is a well-known, allowable part of both the National Football League and Major League Baseball.”

Ultimately the research showed that it was ethical for a variety of reasons including looking at the college football rules’ book, how professional sports treat sign stealing, and a variety of ethical theories, making this an acceptable practice in college football.

Ian Silfies Headshot

However, the research went so much further than just being published. Silfies, co-author and second-year law student at The University of Texas Law explained how the research paper prepared him for law school, “Working on a longer research paper helped prepare me for law school as it taught me how to keep track of and organize substantial amounts of information throughout the drafting process. The skills I gained from working on this project significantly helped me during my first year of law school as I learned best research practices as well as how to organize my thoughts in a way that could be easily transferred onto paper.”


Dani Clifford Headshot

Clifford, a third-year law student at Villanova Law School, and research assistant for the article, also stated how the project allowed her, “to develop my research, writing, and editing skills, as well as exposed me to legal academia,” which has helped her with her continuing education.

Both students have acknowledged that being able to work with Winneker has become a pinnacle part in furthering their legal education. Silfies states, “Professor Winneker’s mentorship during the research and writing process helped me improve my research abilities while also preparing me for the quality of writing expected from a graduate program.” While Clifford added, “Working with Professor Winneker has been incredibly rewarding. I love that I still get to be connected to the faculty at Misericordia as an alumnus, while still furthering my legal education.”

For more information about their research published in Marquette Sports Law Review, Click Here, and for additional information about the business department at Misericordia University please visit our website.