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Arizona official: ‘No comment’ on health of Wildcats receiver Juron Criner

Arizona's Juron Criner makes a catch against UCLA last season. Photo by Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE

It started with a couple of lines in Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen’s Sunday notebook.

Talking about the supposed academic qualification of Arizona Wildcats incoming freshman running back Ka’Deem Carey, Hansen wrote of star senior receiver Juron Criner:

“Carey’s availability somewhat offsets concerns that All-Pac-10 receiver Juron Criner might not be available for training camp in August. Criner’s status for the 2011 season remains uncertain because of undisclosed medical reasons.”

The Sunday notebook, which is held back from azstarnet.com as a print exclusive for a couple of days, hit the internet Tuesday … and then went fully viral Wednesday after a mention in Jon Wilner’s College Hotline blog at the San Jose Mercury News. Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com tweeted about it. USA Today and CBSSports.com, among others, repurposed the same information about Criner’s uncertain status.

For the record, the Arizona sports information office said of Criner’s health and status on Wednesday morning, “We are unable to comment,” citing student privacy guidelines. Not that coach Mike Stoops could comment specifically, but the Arizona football office said Monday that Stoops is out of town this week and not easily reached by cell phone. A text message sent from TucsonCitizen.com to Criner early last week, on an unrelated matter, went unanswered.

Hansen’s un-sourced piece of information created, predictably, a grab-bag of speculation on internet message boards, creating far more questions than answers.

Journalistically, this is an interesting debate. Criner is a returning second-team All-American and a unanimous All-Pac-10 selection, so he is definitely newsworthy; this is quite a scoop. In fact, you could argue the news is so important and/or delicate that the Star should have pursued some sort of confirmation or a comment — or even a no-comment — from a UA official, coach or family member before dangling the information out there.

(I had not wanted to add fuel to any speculation, but the news is very far out there now. I won’t conjecture on what I hear about the state or causes of Criner’s condition.)

Veterans report to Arizona football camp on Aug. 3. Criner, who considered turning pro after last season, has a redshirt year available.

Criner, expected to lead a deep receiving corps, made 82 catches last season for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He had eight games with at least 95 receiving yards and five games in triple-digits.

Criner, in a Q&A with TucsonCitizen.com in May, revealed that he had been selected to be part of a Pac-10 promotional tour to ESPN in June. Despite ESPN promoting his appearance a day earlier, Criner was unable to travel to the ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn., on June 14, because of what a UA official at the time called family reasons.

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