Chip Kelly signed on as the University of Oregon football coach. He did not bargain for the other hats he's now been forced to wear.

Chip Kelly signed on as the University of Oregon football coach. He did not bargain for the other hats he's now been forced to wear.

Psychologist. Advocate. Mediator. Public relations person. Judge. No matter which team you support in the Civil War, it's hard not to pity Kelly as he navigates an unenviable mess.

But this debacle has its teachable moments. History will evaluate Kelly for suspending LaMichael James and Rob Beard for one game for harassment convictions (both admitted to assaulting women) while taking Jeremiah Masoli off the roster for the entire season for stealing a laptop.

Surely, Kelly does not believe that pilfering a computer trumps beating women.

In law school, I received specialized training about domestic violence, knowledge that enhances my work as a divorce mediator today. Domestic violence is one of the most underreported crimes, in part because the victims are intimidated by their attackers, and in part because the cases are simply hard to prove.

This issue does not often stand in the spotlight, but last week's events have focused the state's attention on three football players' behavior off the field. In the last few days, as I have discussed these cases with others who have not spent as much time studying domestic violence as I have, similarly themed questions and comments have repeatedly arisen: "What did she do to provoke him? I'm sure they both just lost their cool."

My thought (sometimes spoken) is, "Does this make you curious about anything more than that?" Zeroing in on the sensationalism and sympathizing with the celebrities, while hardly a unique response, completely misses the point. When college guys get into trouble with the law for being college guys, it's because they've gotten drunk, chewed out their coach on a social-networking site, or smoked marijuana. Those are the slip-ups minor enough to be chalked up to college shenanigans that most people outgrow within a few years.

But violence against women is a problem that plagues every race, age group and socioeconomic status. When we recall this story in five years, the football team's sullied reputation should not be the headline. Instead, let's remember that this incident made us stand up to violence against women.

Full disclosure: I'm a Duck. The diploma on my office wall reminds me of the college experience that shaped the ideals I espouse. In the first five minutes of my first undergraduate class, Honors College Literature, the professor asked, "To pursue a good life, how should we live and what should we value?" What we prioritize matters. The messages we send — by what we prize and what we discard, what we reward and what we punish — determine what we value.

When Kelly took the reins from Mike Bellotti barely a year ago, he certainly could not have anticipated the six-month stream of controversy that has plagued his team. To his credit, he swiftly addressed LeGarrette Blount's gross lapse in sportsmanship. In a similarly measured way, Kelly reserved judgment on the present cases until after the court process. He's a good man, managing the bulk of this chaos without help.

But Kelly's recent disciplinary decisions left me scratching my head.

The two players who hit women can play in all but one game, while Masoli, the computer thief, forfeits the year. Both criminal offenses are wrong; I make no excuses for these men. Yes, Masoli had a past brush with the law, but juvenile convictions are usually sealed, as his was, so it was irrelevant to this month's court proceeding. Theft is theft.

Violence is violence.

The court system had the right order. Longer probation for assaulting women than for stealing. More jail time for assaulting women than for stealing. Kelly reversed those priorities.

The coach, though well-intentioned, was over his head when he played judge. The Lane County Circuit Court got it right. The right people are on the judicial bench. Beard and James should be doing more time on Kelly's bench as long as Masoli is.

I commend the men in black robes who recognized that if there isn't room in jail for both a thief and a batterer, and you have to punish one more harshly, the cell goes to the guy who hit his girlfriend.

Matthew M. House, J.D., is a divorce and family law mediator in private practice in Beaverton. He has frequently provided expert commentary related to family and juvenile law for television, radio and print media throughout the United States.