From staff and wire reports

The Arizona football team has been chosen No. 1 out of 107 Division I-A teams in Sports Illustrated's college football preview issue. The magazine hits newsstands today.

From obscurity two seasons ago, the Arizona defense has elevated the Wildcats to Sports Illustrated's top-ranked football teams.

Five players from the defensive unit, nicknamed the Desert Swarm for its successes in 1992 and 1993, adorn the magazine's cover this week. It reads: "ROCK SOLID ─Arizona is No. 1."

The Swarm includes defensive end Tedy Bruschi, who led the Pacific 10 Conference with 19 sacks last year, and linebacker Sean Harris. Arizona was No. 2 nationally in total defense the past two years and gave up a nation-low 30.1 rushing yards per game in 1993.

The program hit the big-time on New Year's Day when Arizona beat Miami 29-0 in the Fiesta Bowl, capping a school-best 10-2 season.

That's a long way from the 4-7 season of 1991 or the 6-5-1 record in 1992.

The Associated Press preseason media poll has the Wildcats ranked No. 7; the USA Today/CNN coaches' poll rates them eighth.

The first-ever cover-page atten tion for any Arizona team ─ not even the two Final Four men's basketball teams since 1988 made it ─ is also likely to paint an even bigger target on the Wildcats this season.

In fact, it marks only the second time a current or former University of Arizona athlete was featured on the magazine's cover.

Chuck Cecil was featured on the cover last fall for a piece the magazine did on Cecil's fines by the NFL for tackling. Steve Kerr, a former UA point guard and current member of the Chicago Bulls, was once in the corner of the magazine's cover.

"I think it's great for the program," Arizona coach Dick Tomey said yesterday in his office. "It's a tribute to all the players who have played before as much as it's a tribute to these players."

Last year, the magazine picked Syracuse as its top team. The Orangemen ended the year a disappointing 6-4-1 and weren't listed in AP's final Top 25 poll for 1993.

The Wildcats have practiced twice a day for the past two weeks. Tonight's practice marks the end of "two-a-days."

Arizona opens against Georgia Tech on Sept. 1 in Atlanta.

"This doesn't detract from next Thursday," Tomey said. "Our guys know that."

As for a widespread notion that being a cover subject often is a jinx, UA associate athletic director Butch Henry said that won't be a problem.

"If we lose, it won't be because of any picture on the magazine, it's because the other team beats our butt," Henry said. "I'd rather be on the cover of SI than seventh in the conference." Read Next Article