There was once a time when the most trusted man in America was a guy named Walter Cronkite.

He wasn’t a politician. Or an actor. Or even the commissioner of the SEC.

He was a news anchor who simply reported the facts of the day to us every evening on network television.

No spin. No opinions. Just the facts.

It’s a concept that went the way of the single-wing and 2-handed set shot a long time ago. These days, the talking heads on TV are more interested in why things happen and what they mean than what actually did happen.

Which brings us to the ACC’s 2023-24 athletic year. It was an eventful 10 months, filled with wins, losses, surprise additions and lawsuits that could potentially bring about 2 significant departures.

So was this a successful year for the conference or a disappointment?

It all depends on whom you ask.

If you believe commissioner Jim Phillips, 2023-24 was a banner year for the ACC, one that showed it has what it takes to stay together and thrive well into the future. That differs greatly from the message being put onto the internet by the multitude of social media trolls convinced that the ACC is on a collision course with imminent demise.

Rather than guessing or taking someone else’s word on the subject, let’s play a little game of “good, bad, or indifferent” using just the facts to come up with the true measure of how the ACC did this past year and where it might be headed from here.

Sept. 1: ACC announces the addition of Cal, Stanford and SMU

When commissioner Phillips proclaimed that the conference “would absolutely be open to expansion” at the ACC’s preseason media event in Charlotte in July, no one could possibly have imagined that just over a month later the league would add 3 new members. Let alone from as far away as California. But after the sudden demise of the Pac-12, the ACC took in stragglers Cal and Stanford, along with SMU from the American Athletic Conference, to become an “All-Coast Conference.”

It was a move that didn’t make much sense, other than that it provided the league with a much-needed infusion of cash. The additions will bring in somewhere in the neighborhood of $72 million in additional revenue, with the 2 California schools agreeing to take a reduced share of the windfall and SMU taking nothing at all for the next 7 years. All 3 will begin play in the conference this fall.

Verdict: Good.

Nov. 18: Jordan Travis breaks his leg

Florida State beat overmatched North Alabama 58-13 to improve to 11-0 and protect its standing among the top 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings. But in the process of winning the game, the Seminoles suffered a devastating loss when star quarterback Jordan Travis was lost for the season with a broken leg suffered at the end of a run late in the first quarter.

Verdict: Bad.

Dec. 3: FSU wins the ACC football title to finish unbeaten

Despite being without Travis and his top backup Tate Rodemaker, who was also injured in the regular-season finale against Florida, the Seminoles still managed to defeat Louisville 16-6 in Charlotte to win their first ACC football championship since 2014 and head into the postseason with a perfect 13-0 record. True freshman Brock Glenn completed only 8-of-21 passes for 55 yards. But that was good enough thanks to a defense that recorded 7 sacks and 10 pass breakups.

Verdict: Good.

Dec. 4: Seminoles get snubbed by the CFP Committee

No undefeated Power 5 conference champion had ever been left out of the College Football Playoff since its inception in 2014. But as the old saying goes, the first time can’t happen until it happens for the first time. And it finally happened. The committee, chaired by NC State athletic director Boo Corrigan, used Travis’ injury as an excuse to leapfrog 1-loss teams Alabama and Texas ahead of Florida State and keep the unbeaten ACC champs out of its 4-team national championship tournament. Disappointed by the snub, most of the Seminoles’ top players decided to skip the Orange Bowl game against Georgia, leading to an embarrassing 63-3 loss.

Verdict: Very bad.

Dec. 22: Florida State sues the ACC

After months of posturing and threats, Florida State formally sued the ACC seeking to escape the conference’s restrictive grant of media rights so that it could sever its relationship with the conference and be free to explore other affiliation options. During an emergency meeting of his school’s Board of Trustees, FSU President Richard McCullough said that legal action is the only option ” to maximize our potential as an athletics department.”

Under the grant of rights, which was signed by all 14 current football-playing members in 2016, binds those schools to the league through 2036. Any member attempting to leave would be required to pay an exit of 3 times the league’s annual revenue (approximately $240 million). It would also forfeit all media rights revenues for the remaining length of the agreement. Anticipating a potential lawsuit by FSU in Florida, the ACC fired a preemptive strike by filing a suit of its own against the Seminoles in North Carolina, further complicating the situation,

Verdict: Bad.

Jan. 27: On the verge of ‘being a 2-bid conference?’

Disrespect for ACC basketball was already running rampant among the national media and ESPN’s overhyped bracket guesser Joe Lunardi. But it hit a peak in late January when some, particularly Jon Rothstein of CBS, began spreading the narrative that conferences such as the Mountain West had surpassed the “fading” ACC in the rankings. Never mind that quirks in the system made it possible to manipulate those rankings into making some conferences look better than they actually were. Or that the ACC wasn’t nearly as down as the so-called experts were selling. That didn’t stop Rothstein from suggesting on social media that the ACC might only be worthy of 2 NCAA Tournament bids come Selection Sunday.

Verdict: Indifferent.

March 15: CFP revenue-sharing plan is approved

Representatives of 10 FBS conferences and Notre Dame agreed in principle on a new 6-year media rights contract with ESPN to televise the newly expanded 12-team Playoff. The deal is worth $1.3 billion annually. But it won’t be distributed evenly. The plan guarantees the Big Ten and SEC approximately 58% of the CFP’s base revenues. The ACC and Big 12 would only split about 32% of the pot with the ACC getting 17.1% and the Big 12 receiving 14.7%. as well. Bonus shares will also be available for conferences and schools based on participation and Playoff advancement. The ACC’s council of presidents were reluctant to agree to the plan because of the financial disparity. But they decided to accept it anyway rather than risk getting left out of the new format.

Verdict: Bad.

March 12-16: The death of #NCStateStuff

Anyone who even casually follows the ACC is familiar with the (sanitized) hashtag #NCStateStuff. It’s the long-standing belief among Wolfpack fans that they can never have nice things. That any time anything seemed to be going their way, the universe would inevitably spoil the fun by hitting them with some sort of unforeseen misfortune. It’s a concept that was officially retired over an improbable 5-day stretch in Washington, DC. State overcame an injury to leading scorer DJ Horne, an early 12-point deficit in its opening game against Louisville, and numerous other obstacles – including traditional antagonists Duke and UNC – to overcome the odds and win its first ACC Tournament championship since 1987.

The unprecedented 5-wins-in-5-days accomplishment didn’t just get the Wolfpack into the NCAA Tournament, help Kevin Keatts save his job, turn Michael O’Connell into an NC State legend, and transform DJ Burns into a national cult hero, it also provided the ACC with the kind of positive feel-good story it badly needed.

Verdict: Good.

March 28-29: ‘Sweet’ basketball redemption

Two-bid league? The ACC officially destroyed that silly narrative by not only getting 5 teams into the 68-team field, but by sending 4 of those teams – UNC, Duke, Clemson, and NC State – through the first 2 rounds into the Sweet 16. But that was only the beginning, Although the top-seeded Tar Heels were upset by Alabama in the West Region semifinals, the Blue Devils, Tigers, and Wolfpack all made it through to the Elite 8, While the ACC placed 3 teams among the final 8, including 2 teams seeded sixth or lower, the Big 12 and Mountain West were shut out while going a combined 11-13 in the tournament. Touché.

Verdict: Very good.

March 31: NC State men and women to the Final Four

The Wolfpack’s rallying cry of “Why not us?” during its improbable run through the ACC and NCAA tournaments became “Why not both?” when State’s women’s team beat Texas to earn its 1st Final Four trip since 1997. Perhaps its victory served as inspiration or motivation for their male counterparts, who then went out and beat Duke to punch their first Final Four ticket since 1983. The twin triumphs put State into the history books by making it only the 11th school to send both its men’s and women’s teams to college basketball’s premier event in the same year.

Verdict: Good.

May 24: Settlement allows ‘student-athletes’ to cash in

The NCAA and its 5 biggest conferences, including the ACC, agreed to pay approximately $2.8 billion to settle a landmark antitrust suit known as House vs. NCAA. The money will be used to compensate former athletes denied name, image, and likeness opportunities. It also ends the myth of the collegiate model by opening the door for a revenue-sharing system that provides another $20 million per school over the next 10 years to compensate current athletes while shielding the NCAA and its members from further lawsuits. Not everyone is thrilled about the settlement, especially since the ACC’s financial contribution would be more than that of the richer SEC. But they held their nose and approved it anyway, because as prohibitive as the price tag might sound, it’s still pennies on the dollar compared to the cost should the suit go to trial and the NCAA lose. As it almost always does.

Verdict: Indifferent.

June 19: FSU is the last ACC team to be sent home from Omaha

The euphoria of sending 4 teams to the CWS wore off quickly when Virginia, NC State, and UNC became the first 3 teams eliminated from the double-elimination tournament. All by SEC opponents. Florida State then lost to top-seeded Tennessee on Wednesday, ending the ACC’s last hope of finishing the 2023-24 athletic year with a championship.

Verdict: Bad.

The final verdict

Okay. There are the facts.

Now it’s time to cut through the spin and decide whether the positives the ACC achieved on the gridiron, court, and diamond outweigh the negatives that took place away from the field of play. Or whether expansion of the league’s geographic footprint from coast to coast is a sign of strength or weakness.

So was it a good year or a bad year?

Or just indifferent?

The best answer to those questions is provided by an account designed to push back on the many trolls predicting the ACC’s demise on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. It goes by the handle “Did The ACC Die Today?” and each day, it posts a humorous gif reminding the haters that the league is still here.

Yes, the ACC is still here. And it will continue to live on for at least another athletic year.

That makes it a win. No matter how you keep score.