Monty Taylor needed help.
In January 2010, Taylor was a freshman basketball player on scholarship at Kansas City Kansas Community College. He was about to begin his second semester of school, but his work study income was proving inadequate to pay rent as well as provide for himself, his mom and his young daughter’s medical bills as she was in and out of the hospital.
Then, he and his roommate were served a late rent notice at the Royal Ridge Apartments. Feeling out of options because junior college scholarships do not cover living arrangements, he went to his head coach, Jon Oler, and told him of his rent plight since, according to Taylor, it was Oler’s request for Taylor to move from the Missouri side of the Kansas City metro, where he lived at home, and be closer to campus.
Oler’s solution, according to Taylor, was a simple one.
“‘I’ll help you,’” Taylor said Oler told him. “He was like, ‘just meet me here at such-and-such time, and we’ll go to the bank.’
“He took me to the bank. We drew the cash out. We went and paid it. He paid it with cash. I don’t remember if it was a Commerce or UMB, but I know it was a bank out by the Legends.”
The Royal Ridge Apartment complex is listed at 7350 State Ave. in Kansas City, Kan. — a short distance east from the Legends shopping center in Wyandotte County. Though it is nowhere near certain it was the bank used, a UMB Bank is listed at 8300 Parallel Parkway, just east of the Legends, approximately 2 miles from both the Royal Ridge Apartments and KCKCC campus.
In a letter addressed to KCKCC athletics director Dan Pratt, Taylor wrote the amount paid by Oler was $400.
As for Oler, the outcome of this could be especially damaging. The 2010-11 Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference’s Eastern Division Coach of the Year (an award won the season after Taylor’s allegation of rent payment) was suspended six games this past season, for violation of College and national Junior College Athletic Association by-laws, after it was determined he had had facilitated an improper payment on behalf of a student athlete to pay for a summer class. That charge is completely unrelated to this situation. Also, several other sources interviewed said Oler has paid other past players’ rents as well. When asked how much money total was thought to be involved, one answer was “in the thousands, and that’s just the ones I know of.”
After the transaction took place, however, Taylor said his relationship with Oler began to change. The coach would reference and use the outstanding debt as something to hold over Taylor’s head. Later, it was made clear that the guard would not be welcomed back for his sophomore season.
“After he helped me, the relationship between me and him started going downhill,” Taylor said. “I wasn’t really focused on the season, and when the end of the season came, he was telling me, ‘maybe next year, we aren’t going to need you.’ So, I just stopped going to the workouts. I was like maybe I’m done.
“I heard from a teammate, after I left the school, that [Oler] was downing me on a couple of things because of the money situation, I guess. He was expecting to receive some money back, but I never gave him money back. That’s just sort of how it all ended.”
After he quit attending workouts, Taylor’s letter indicates he again was unable to pay rent in March of 2010. At that time, he was evicted from his apartment, dropped out prior to the semester’s end and moved back in with his family on the Missouri side. Because he dropped out of KCKCC about mid-semester, Taylor was later issued a bill for his remaining tuition, an amount he says is in the neighborhood of $773.
With the outstanding debt to the school, a hold was placed on Taylor’s academic records. The hold has, to this point almost two years later, impeded Taylor’s efforts to transfer to another institution and continue his playing career. Taylor’s letter was addressed to and came at the request of Pratt, who, according to Taylor, gave some impression his letter might help in getting his transcripts released.
“We had talked. I let him know that I was still waiting on that situation with my transcripts to get back in school,” Taylor said. “And, he was like, ‘okay, just come in and talk to me, and I’ll let you know what we can do to help you.’
“When I got in, he just let me know that I needed to write that letter out, and that would help me probably get my transcripts released, or whatever, to get back into school. But, that was it. He told me it should help me, but he never said it would get me back in school.”
Neither Pratt nor Oler returned attempts to reach them for comment.
Taylor’s letter, dated Feb. 27 of this year, was part of a larger packet that’s contents included an anonymous letter. (Bode, and others, believe the anonymous letter first appeared sometime last November as it does not mention Oler’s later suspension.) The packet was sent to the KCKCC administration as well as all other Jayhawk Conference schools.
When reached by phone Wednesday morning, Jayhawk Conference Commissioner Bryce Roderick confirmed that he had received the information.
“I received it from one of the presidents of the colleges; I didn’t receive it directly,” Roderick said. “I called athletic director Dan Pratt, informed him I had received a letter and sent him a copy. They were all on spring break last week, and I’m now in Colorado Springs for NJCAA annual meetings, so we have not yet made contact. I’m waiting for that contact before I can make any comment.”
Roderick said he would be back in his office next week. It is believed a meeting with Pratt and others in Kansas City may soon follow.
Meanwhile, also reached by phone on Wednesday, Brian Bode, KCKCC Vice President of Student and Administrative Services, said that Taylor’s claim of Oler’s payment is currently being investigated by the school, and that any other allegations involving the coach are more a case of a witch hunt, perhaps from former, disgruntled players.
“We have some former students and players who are out to get this guy,” Bode said. “And, we can’t find any substantiation, right now, about anything about the allegation about him paying rent. We have a student who says yes; we have a coach who says no.
“What we’ve got is a kid who is out of school, gone, dropped out of school and is gone, and he supposedly is the one that’s saying this happened,” Bode said. “It’s kind of ironic if it did, that he quit school because he got kicked out of his apartment because he didn’t pay rent.
“We have a he said/she said, only they are both he’s.”
Bode’s assertion for the reason behind the letters being sent is an easy one.
“What they’re trying to get out of it is for [Oler] to be fired,” Bode said. “One of them, I think, is trying to get us to forgive an old debt, so he can get into school. But, you’ve got to remember, nobody was present in the room, or, in the one allegation that [Oler] paid for someone’s rent, there was nobody there except him, some player and whoever took the rent money.
“Nobody else has ever said they watched it happen. They’ve all heard it happened.”
In spite of that, Bode did say that Taylor’s allegation continues to be looked into on an extremely detailed level.
“That’s the one we’re looking at,” Bode said. “It showed up without anybody seeing it. It just showed up on a desk. It’s written in one style and it’s signed by another style, so we’re trying to contact this kid and see, ‘did you sign this?’
“It is an allegation. It is with our lawyers, and we are looking at it. It is the one that says he paid my rent. And, the coach said no I don’t. That is the only [allegation] that has had a signature on it, and it was the end of February was the date on it. It was a part of the letter that went to all of the other schools, but the writing on the form and the signature are really different. So, it’s been given to our lawyers to look at.
“And, it was also not signed by anybody that we saw. That’s why we’re having it looked at by our legal team. None of us are investigators. That’s why the college’s attorney has it. He has as much contact information as we know about this former student. So, he’s looking at it.”
Taylor said the letter is entirely his.
“Yes, I did,” he said, when asked if he wrote it. “I wrote it by myself.”
Overall, the allegation of Jon Oler paying rent for Blue Devils players is one of several current issues raised by multiple sources regarding the men’s basketball team and athletic department. Those other issues are being explored. Many interviews have been completed. Others are still ongoing. Look for more in the coming days.