MC, we have all had our share of jacked up pies, no worries there.
I asked about specific amounts of ADY or Starter vs ferment times so we can know exactly what happened. If you remember then post them up. Also post up the total amount of flour used. The yeast amount used divided by the flour amount gives the % of yeast. This is what I need to know.
I have been down this road before. My suspicion is that you used a very small amount of ADY (0.1-0.2%) or starter (1-2% of the flour weight), cool or cold water, no bulk rise, cold refrigeration (40F) or so and got no rise but only after 24 hours room temp did you get some rise.
Dough doesn't necessarily have to rise in the fridge but it should a bit. You can used Scott's outline and you should be fine. If you want to retry your current recipe, then including a bulk rise on the counter at room temps for at least 1 hour (2 maybe better) should fix your problem. This allows the yeast to get kick started. Also use room temperature water and not cold water.
In your situation, you likely used cool or cold water shocking the small amount of yeast that you have. Then without a bulk rise and into the fridge, the yeast never has a chance to take off. The only time you would do this is if you were going for a 10-14 day cold ferment or something that long.
I would double up your yeast amount, use room temp water, bulk rise 1-2 hours, then cold ferment for 2-3 days in a clear container. You should see small bubbles develop on the bottom over the course of 2-3 days. The dough won't look like it's risen much but it will rise some (~20%). Room temp proof on the counter for 2-3 hours or until dough doubles and then use. That should work.
good luck and do post some pics up. We won't be critical I promise.