Naval Academy Athletic Director J.O. (Bo) Coppedge said yesterday he has discussed with Maryland athletic officials the possibility of renewing the football rivalry between the schools and that he believes a Navy-Maryland game will eventually take place.

"It is going to happen," Coppedge said. "It is simply a matter of when."

"I have had two very fine meetings with Lew Perkins {Maryland's athletic director}," Coppedge said, "and I have voiced my opinion that under the right set of circumstances we would like to play them."

Perkins was out of town yesterday but assistant athletic director Jeff Hathaway said that the discussions have progressed enough that Perkins and Coppedge met late in the summer with Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer. Hathaway, who called any potential rivalry a "natural," said Baltimore would be a likely spot for such a game.

"I think both of them feel as though they would want to play in Baltimore every year," Hathaway said. "It's a 40-minute bus ride for each team, and it would almost always be a sellout of 60,000-plus."

If a Navy-Maryland game is to take place in the next decade, one of the circumstances to which Coppedge referred would have to be a change in Navy's schedules. The academy already has scheduled 11 games in each of the next 10 seasons, Coppedge said.

Maryland has openings on its 1988 and 1989 schedules that were created when Pittsburgh asked out of a contract. However, Hathaway didn't expect Navy to be the team filling that spot.

"My gut reaction is that they will not be the team on the schedule," he said. "The discussion is moving along, but not quite at that pace."

However, that does not necessarily mean fans will have to wait until 1998 to see the Midshipmen and the Terrapins play each other.

Openings do arise, Coppedge said. For example about two years ago, William and Mary athletic officials approached him about canceling some games between the schools because they were planning to join the Colonial League, a group of eastern schools that now grant financial aid based only on need and, in the future, will limit their football opponents to Colonial and Ivy league schools. Navy was able to find new opponents and the games with William and Mary were dropped, Coppedge said.

"We are interested in playing Maryland for a lot of reasons," Coppedge said. "It's a natural, in-state rivalry. The travel expenses are low and the gate's pretty good."

The only problem Navy could have, Coppedge said, is that "everybody makes the point that we don't play enough easy games now, that if we had an opening we should get somebody easier than Maryland, which I think will have a good football team for a number of years."

Navy and Maryland have played each other 20 times, with the last series of games taking place from 1963 to 1965.

In other Navy football developments, Coach Elliot Uzelac said yesterday Chuck Smith, who is second on the Midshipmen (1-8) in rushing behind freshman quarterback Alton Grizzard despite missing the last four games because of a sprained knee, will play in Saturday's game at Delaware (4-5).

The senior running back, who started the season at halfback and was switched to fullback, averaged a team-high 5.1 yards on 72 carries for a total of 364 yards before being injured during Navy's second series against Air Force on Oct. 10. Grizzard, who has 381 yards on 112 carries, overtook Smith by gaining 58 yards in Navy's 34-10 loss to No. 6 Syracuse last Saturday.

"Chuck practiced Monday and {Tuesday} I thought he did pretty well," Uzelac said. "Hopefully, he'll continue to improve. It was nice having him back."