If you can't join 'em, lick 'em. That is the philosophy Navy hopes to follow Saturday when Princeton makes the Ivy League's first football foray into Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium since 1962.

This is not a one-shot venture, since both Dartmouth and Pennsylvania will play in Annapolis in 1986. Bo Coppedge, Navy's athletic director, today noted some reasons for the return of the Ivies as well as his own wishful thought that Navy could belong to that exclusive fraternity.

"There are probably three reasons for the Ivies' return to our schedule," Coppedge said. "First, it helps to balance our schedule, so that we're not playing national powers every week.

"Second, at the time these games were scheduled, there was a difficult fuel situation. We knew it would be difficult to obtain transportation for long trips and, in the context of the times (early 1970s), it was even un-American to try.

"Third, I'm involved with them in so many other areas -- tennis, swimming, the Heptagonals (track), baseball -- that I like to maintain contact. Actually, their programs have more in common with us than anybody else.

"They've invited us to join their league and I'd like to do so except for one thing -- I couldn't pay the bills. Our financial situation is just a bit different from theirs."

There will be no problem with the bills Saturday, however. It is the academy's homecoming and not only are all 30,000 seats gone, but standing-room sales indicate one of the largest crowds in the history of the stadium, which opened in 1959.

But there is no assurance Navy will prevail on the scoreboard. After going 19 years without an Ivy opponent, following that 41-0 rout of Cornell in 1962, the Midshipmen visited Yale three years ago and suffered a shocking 23-19 defeat. Last year, they had to struggle to win at Princeton, 37-29.

In both cases, the equalizer was an outstanding passing combination. For Yale, the names were John Rogan and Curt Grieve. In Princeton's case, the thrower is Doug Butler, the receiver Derek Graham.

Last year, Butler completed 25 of 55 passes for 399 yards against Navy and was not intercepted. Already, although a junior, Butler has thrown for 4,215 yards, surpassing ex-Redskin Bob Holly's school record.

"I thought Butler was the best quarterback we faced last year," Navy Coach Gary Tranquill said. "On the basis of film I've seen this year, I feel the same way."