As the interface between the cell and its environment, the cell cortex must be able to respond to a variety of external stimuli. This is made possible in part by cortical excitability, a behavior driven by coupled positive and negative feedback loops which generate propagating waves of actin assembly in the cell cortex. Cortical excitability is best known for promoting cell protrusion and allowing the interpretation of and response to chemoattractant gradients in migrating cells. However, it has recently become apparent that cortical excitability is involved in the response of the cortex to internal signals from the cell cycle regulatory machinery and the spindle during cell division. Two overlapping functions have been ascribed to cortical excitability in cell division: control of cell division plane placement, and amplification of Rho activity at the equatorial cortex during cytokinesis. Here we propose that cortical excitability explains several important, yet poorly understood features of signaling during cell division. We also consider the potential advantages that arise from the use of cortical excitability as a signaling mechanism to regulate cortical dynamics in cell division.